Assam: Assembly elections
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The Times of India, March 29, 2016
B B Goswami & Naresh Mitra
Why a lotus bloom is so crucial for BJP in the valley of high stakes
For BJP , the battle for the Bengalidominated Barak Valley in Lower Assam is a high-stakes game. In the 1991 assembly polls, it put in a stunning performance here winning 9 of the 15 seats. But it lost ground to the Congress subsequently .This time around, the saffron party hopes to reverse fortunes and snatch lost territory from the ruling party for a maiden shy at office. Contesting 91 seats in the state this time, leaving about 35 to allies, the BJP is the only party in the formation it heads that has any appeal in the valley. The AGP , an Assamese outfit, has little traction in the valley . Similarly , the Bodo People's Front holds sway in areas where their community is in a majority . That makes the 15 Barak Valley seats so much more crucial.
Conscious of this reality , the BJP has focused firepower here. The Prime Minister campaigned in Silchar. The valley has a sizeable Bengali Hindu presence, but over the years the Bengali Muslim population has risen sharply , in fact they are in a majority in four assembly seats.
This makes BJP's task more challeng ing. In 1947, the region's overwhelmingly Hindu population stopped it from being lumped with East Pakistan. Today , the Barak valley has a Muslim population of over 50%. While Hindus are a majority in Cachar, Muslims dominate Hailakandi and Karimganj.
This is why the NDA govern ment's promise to grant citizenship status to all refugees of religious minorities fleeing Bangladesh got trac tion among Hindus here.But the government's subsequent silence has made the region restless. PM Naredra Modi skipped the issue in his speech near Silchar.
In 2011, the region's Bengali Hindu population went strongly with the Congress, consolidating against a fastrising All India United Democratic Front of Badruddin Ajmal. Gogoi's party swept 13 of the valley's 15 seats.
“Our strength has grown since the 2014 LS polls. The anger against Congress is strong. This time, we expect to do well,“ Assam BJP vicepresident and candidate for North Karimganj Mission Ranjan Das, said.
Assam PCC spokesman Deepan Dewanjee said his party would sweep Barak Valley . But the party is hob bled by the absence of senior politicians such as Santosh Mohan Deb. In the 2014 LS polls, BJP failed to win any of the two parliamentary seats in the valley. The party had leads in three of the 15 assembly seats. Congress won the Silchar LS seat and Ajmal's AIUDF won Karimganj. Later, BJP wrested the Silchar assembly seat from Congress in a bypoll.
2016: BJP ends 15-year Congress reign
The Times of India, May 20 2016
BJP took a big leap for ward in its bid to expand its base in the northeast by handing out a humiliating defeat to arch-rival Congress with the help of its two regional allies, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People's Front (BPF).
The victory , which comes after two major debacles in Delhi and Bihar, will allow the saffron party to govern a state that has the country's second-highest Muslim population after Jammu & Kashmir. At least 35 of Assam's 126 assembly seats have more than 50% Muslim voters.
BJP, which got a mere five of 120 contested seats in 2011, won 60 seats at a high strike rate this time. It had fielded candidates in 89 constituencies. On the contrary , Congress got 20 seats, far below its tally of 78 in the last election. The success in Assam, which comes as a morale booster at a time when BJP is preparing for a tough contest in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Gujarat, is set to help the saffron party make inroads into more areas of the northeast.
At the moment, BJP has tie-ups with the Naga People's Front, which rules Christian-dominated Nagaland, and People's Party of Arunachal, currently in power in the frontier state. The win has also brought cheer to BJP supporters in Manipur, which goes to the polls early next year. Meghalaya, Mani pur and Mizoram are the three states that have a Congress government at the moment. AGP also made its mark by winning 14 of the 24 seats it contested. BPF retained all the 12 seats it had won as a partner of Congress in 2011. The Bodo organisation had contested 13 seats. Like Congress, All India United Democratic Front, too, suffered a serious setback. Its tally went down to 13 from 18.Not only this, its chief, billionaire perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, lost in Salmara South in the Muslim-dominated Dhubri district that borders Bangladesh.
The defeat of Congress also saw the end of Gogoi's 15year rule. The outgoing CM had surpassed all his predecessors, including the legendary Gopinath Bordoloi and B P Chaliha, to become Assam's longest-serving CM.
The results revealed a shift in loyalties in Muslim, Ahom and tea belts. While Congress snatched six seats from AIUDF in minority-dominated lower and central Assam, tea workers, traditional Congress supporters, overwhelmingly voted for BJP . In the Ahom homeland of upper Assam, too, Congress performed miserably. Gogoi is an Ahom.