Cong fails to hold its fortress in Assam

Cong fails to hold its fortress in Assam

Cong fails to hold its fortress in Assam

 The pan-India disaster that hit the Congress on Friday did not spare the party even in Assam – the North-Eastern state which once seemed to be its most impregnable fortress.

The Congress, which had won half of the 14 Lok Sabha seats from Assam in 2004 and 2009, ended up with just three this time. The BJP’s tally went up from four in 2009 to seven this year.

The saffron party’s vote-share went up from 16.21% in 2009 polls to 36.6% this year. The Congress vote percentage went down from 34.89% in the previous elections to 29.6% this time.

The All India United Democratic Front, which was floated in the State about 10 years back and won a seat in 2009, continued to expand its base and scored three. The decline of Asom Gana Parishad continued and the once-formidable regional party failed to win any seat.

The BJP eroded the AGP’s support-base of Assamese Hindus in Brahmaputra Valley. The Congress lost its traditional “Ali and Kuli” (Muslims and tea plantation workers) vote-banks to the AIUDF and the BJP respectively.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who led the Congress to victory in the Assembly polls thrice since 2001, has been steadfastly claiming that the “Narendra Modi wave” would not work in Assam. He, however, admitted on Friday that the campaigning by the BJP prime-ministerial candidate had indeed made a difference in the State.

“Modi's campaign was propaganda-oriented and his announcement that all Bangladeshis will be asked to leave the country was also a factor in the polls,” PTI quoted Gogoi saying in Guwahati on Friday.

The BJP has over the past 15 years primarily played on the issue of illegal migration of Bengali-speaking Muslims from Bangladesh to woo the Assamese Hindus, thus hijacking the main poll-plank of the AGP. Though its earlier attempts yielded little in Assam, Modi’s rhetoric on the emotive issue of illegal migration of Bangladeshis worked this time.

The BJP also made a huge dent in the Congress’ support base among the tea plantation workers in eastern Assam, where Union ministers Pawan Singh Ghatowar and Rani Narah lost to BJP candidates Rameshwar Teli and Sarbananda Sonowal in Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur respectively.

BJP candidate K P Tasa beat the Congress veteran and former Union minister B K Handique in Jorhat, another constituency where tea-workers’ votes determine outcome of polls.

“The days are not far away when the Congress will be uprooted in Assam,” Teli told a TV channel.

The Congress’ problems were compounded by continued erosion of its Muslim vote-bank by the AIUDF in western and southern Assam.

The AIUDF, which came into being in 2004-05 won 10 seats with 9.03 % votes in 2006 Assembly polls. Its vote share went up to 11.19% in 2009 parliamentary polls, when its chief Badruddin Ajmal was elected to the Lok Sabha.

In 2011 assembly elections, the AIUDF won 12.57% votes to bag 18 seats and emerged as the second largest party. This Lok Sabha election saw the party doing even better and its vote-share going up to 14.9%. The BJP’s secured 36.4% votes, while the Congress ended up with just 29.4%.

Gogoi's son Gourav Gogoi won from the family pocket-borough Kaliabor. BJP national vice-president Bijoya Chakrabarty won in Guwahati constituency. The AIUDF supremo Badruddin Ajmal and his brother Sirajuddin won from Dhubri and Barpeta constituencies.