The Congress in Assam is yet to decide on pre-poll alliances with political parties for assembly polls in the state next year despite the repeated claims made by All India United Democratic Front. A section of Congress functionaries, reportedly including a majority of the legislators, opposed to the tie-up with AIUDF claims that the high command has been apprised about the situation.
Party general secretary in charge of the Northeast Jitender Singh is soon expected to arrive in Guwahati to hold meetings with functionaries and compile a report. Two months ago, former chief minister Tarun Gogoi created a flutter in the party when he announced that the Congress would have a pre-poll alliance with the AIUDF led by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal ahead of the 2021 assembly elections.
Party functionaries opposed to the tie-up went on an overdrive to scuttle the move as it would mean erosion of the party’s support base in the Assamese heartland.
They feel that a bigger alliance of all secular and non-BJP parties is necessary to defeat the saffron party in the assembly polls. On October 15, leaders of Congress, CPI and CPI (ML) decided to explore the possibility of a tie-up ahead of the elections. The AIUDF was not present in the meeting.
At the same time, some newly floated parties like the Assam Jatiya Parishad, which is the brainchild of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), ruled out any alliance with “nationalist and communal forces”.
‘Playing Into BJP’s Hands’
That the BJP would make efforts at polarization is evident from the issues that its leaders have been drumming up in the past few days. Senior BJP leader and finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has announced that a movement would be launched against ‘love jihad’ in the state if the party wins the assembly polls.
However, the party has also increasingly begun to target AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal in recent times. Sarma said in Dibrugarh that girls in Assam are increasingly becoming victims of “Ajmal’s culture-civilisation”.
This is what has made a section of the Congress extremely concerned. “BJP wants the tie-up between the Congress and AIUDF because Ajmal will help in the polarization of the votes. And Congress will be massacred in the process,” said a legislator who did not wish to be named. “It is a fact that Ajmal is unacceptable in the Assamese majority areas in Brahmaputra valley.”
These functionaries are also apprehensive that a large number of ‘winnable seats’ would have to be sacrificed to AIUDF in the event of a tie-up with the party. They are unwilling to allocate more than 4-5 seats to AIUDF since it is a “dying party desperate to gain legitimacy” by joining hands with nationalist parties.
AIUDF: Congress’ Concerns Are Misplaced
Predictably, AIUDF has refuted the allegations leveled by a section of the Congress activists who are opposed to the alliance. “If BJP has to be defeated, then pre-poll alliances is necessary with like-minded parties like the CPI(M). It is also very necessary for a political party to be a part of the government,” said AIUDF spokesperson Hyder Hussain Bora.
Bora exudes confidence that the alliance with the Congress and other parties would he hammered out ahead of the assembly polls. He pointed out that core committees of both the AIUDF and the Congress had passed resolutions supporting the pact.
He said that the assumption of some Congress functionaries that AIUDF would be wiped out without the alliance is not borne by facts. “Since the time AIUDF was founded in 2005, the party’s vote share has kept on increasing. So does this mean that AIUDF would be eliminated from Assam’s political landscape?”
Bora has also clarified that AIUDF had no role in a recent meeting attended by party supremo Badruddin Ajmal where a banner written in Arabic was on display. Ajmal was a guest in the function organised by an NGO.
Incidentally, this episode was flashed extensively in the local media with some BJP leaders again underscoring the ‘hidden agenda’ of the party in Assam. The Muslim Students’ Union also condemned Ajmal and claimed that the episode was an insult to the martyrs of the language movement in the state.
The author is a senior journalist in Assam. Views expressed are personal