May 15, 2011 Off By Rhiddhis Chakravorty

The verdict is out. The Congress is in power for the third consecutive term and this time it has not only come to power but has gain absolute majority with 78 seats out of the total 126 of the Assam assembly. The main opposition AGP got only 10 seats with most of its heavyweights including the president Chandramohan Patowary facing defeat. In a similar fashion the BJP got just 5 seats and the president Ranjit Dutta failed to win. It also lost its stronghold Barak Valley to the Congress. Even the combined strength of the AGP and the BJP is less than the number required to form the opposition. For the first time since independence the Assam assembly will have no opposition. The AIUDF on the other hand won 18 seats thus becoming the largest opposition party though it needs three more seats to form the opposition. The BPF has gained 12 seats and the newly formed Trinamool got one seat. Though congress becoming the largest party and forming the government was predictable very few people could imagine about absolute majority. The badly humiliated opposition might blame it on the EVM’s but the writing on the wall is clear- whether we like the Congress or not the people of Assam have given their mandate in favour of the Congress. The most important aspect the opposition parties particularly the AGP should seriously think about is that the Congress has managed to get a huge chunk of people who don’t like the party eventually votes for them.

Without taking away the credit from the Congress for this emphatic win, it needs to be said that the directionless, vague and lethargic approach of the opposition has immensely helped the congress in this election. The AGP has long been in a state of hallucination. Chandramohan Patowary and his team’s lack of leadership skills and foresight have led the party to such a state that it is not taken seriously by anyone in the state. It has failed to effectively communicate with the people and is clueless and vague when it comes to cornering the Government on crucial issues. The party under Patowary’s leadership has turned into a ‘tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury signifying nothing’. The biggest mistake of the party leadership was that it failed to realise that in comparison with the pathetic performance of the last AGP government the Congress was far more successful on the developmental front and in dealing with unemployment as well as insurgency. The congress, despite its involvement in massive corruption, managed to pacify people by its developmental works. The biggest achievement of the Tarun Gogoi led government has been the revival of the health sector. Better health care, new medical colleges, 108 and 104 services as well as new employment opportunities under NRHM impressed even the diehard anti Congress voters. The AGP failed to sense the fear among people that if it comes to power thousands of people are going to lose their jobs and the government employees will have to starve again without salaries for several months. It also failed to realise the fear that if it comes to power there is not going to be any less corruption than the congress but there is going to be a lot more potholes on the streets and several more hours of load shading every day. It is doubtful, however, that the AGP would do something to allay those fears had they been able to realise them.

While the Congress took a no nonsense view of the political scenario and devised strategies and worked on them to win the election from the very first day of its second term, the AGP was busy playing the game of unification and de-unification. When it got bored of the game it started a new war game. This time it was a fight for designations. When it finally woke up to the sharp tune of poll bugle, it was too lethargic to do a systematic SWOT analysis. No doubt the Congress too was suffering from serious infighting just ahead of the elections. But it never lost sight of its objective. The AGP should have realised that to defeat a very active ruling coalition that had been in power for two consecutive terms it was necessary to move at twice as much speed as that of the competitor.

It is one thing to make tall claims and another to face the reality. This election should be an eye opener for the AGP. It should now realise that the new generation of voters are not impressed by the ‘Heroes of 85’ and the party leadership needs a thorough overhauling. The Assam Agitation is a matter of the past and sooner the AGP think tank get over the nostalgia and start living in the present the better for the party and better for the people who want it to be strong in the assemble not for the love of it but for the fact that a strong opposition is the basic need of a healthy democracy.

Another issue that hampered the credibility of the AGP was its growing affinity with the AIUDF. The AGP was formed on the issue of illegal migrants and its closeness with a party that was formed primarily to protect illegal migrants was hard to digest for the AGP supporters. On the other hand Tarun Gogoi’s tough and unwavering stand on AIUDF boosted his image among the Assamese middle class.

This election has come as a shocker for the BJP as well. The charisma of high profile national leaders failed to better the position of the BJP in Assam and its strength in the assembly reduced to half. The BJP gave special attention to the state with almost all the top leaders flying in and out of the state during the campaigning period. Even before that the party held its national executive in Guwahati. It also laid emphasis on the congress led coalition’s corruption charges. But it was clear that the party was never in a position to form a government on its own. This might have been one of the reasons for people rejecting it because voting for the BJP might indirectly help in bringing AGP to power.

Though several political pundits predicted that RTI activist and farmer rights leader Akhil Gogoi’s relentless tirade against the Congress led Government would have an adverse impact on the elections. The mass support during the rallies organised by Gogoi was thought to be a proof of this. But interestingly it had no impact on the polls. For that one has to blame the ineffectiveness and lack of foresight of the opposition parties.

The opposition’s allegation that the EVMs were tempered does not go down well with the conscious circle. If they had doubts about the EVMs than why were they waiting till the counting was over. It is unfortunate that the opposition is in no mood for any serious self assessment and is trying to hide their failure behind lame excuses.

The rise of the AIUDF is however a matter of concern for the state. With AGP and BJP reduced to ashes the main opposition is now the AIUDF with 18 seats. This will definitely have an adverse communal impact on the secular fabric of the state. With the congress in power and the Ajmal led AIUDF as the main opposition the problem of illegal Bangladeshi migrants is bound to worsen. The thirteenth Assam legislative assembly will see no resistance when it comes to protecting the interests of illegal Bangladeshi voters. Though Ajmal’s dream of becoming the kingmaker has been shattered for now, it is a point to ponder how strong he becomes in the days to come.

Whether the congress becomes complacent after this victory is not as important a question as what will be the role of the AGP and BJP now. In what direction will the AGP and BJP go from this point? Will they continue to play a passive and directionless role of a cry baby in the coming days or will they wake up from their virtual reality where they can form a government any time they wish? Another important question is how strong will the AIUDF grow in the coming days? The answers to these questions will be clear only in the days to come. But these answers will have a permanent impact on the political and socio economic scenario of Assam.


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