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Assam: As Cracks Emerge in INDIA Bloc, Can It Overcome the Lack of Cohesion?

AAP’s stand to contest the three seats in Assam is likely to create problems for the unity of the INDIA bloc.

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To fight against the juggernaut Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the Opposition parties in the Northeastern state of Assam decided to form a common platform, the United Opposition Forum (UOF) – even before the formation of the Opposition-led Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) at the Centre.

As Congress remains the largest Opposition party in the state, it is the natural big partner in the bloc with its State unit President Bhupen Borah functioning as the chairman of the bloc.

Despite initial challenges, UOF was strengthened after the two regional parties – Assam Jatiya Parishad by Lurinjyoti Gogoi and Raijor Dal by Akhil Gogoi, who is also a legislator from the Shivsagar constituency – joined the bloc.

Their joining was significant because the two parties didn’t join the Congress-led Grand Alliance in the last State Assembly polls held in 2021 and divided the anti-BJP votes in some seats of Upper Assam.
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Factionalism Hurting Congress’s Prospects

However, everything isn’t well within the Opposition bloc. This is mainly due to the ongoing internal factionalism within the grand old party and an exodus of party leaders. The party is divided into many factions. 

Recently, two Congress MLAs announced support for the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led BJP government. Of them, Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha who has also resigned from the post of party working president, is a senior Congress leader from the Barak Valley. He has been unhappy with the state leadership, particularly with Borah, and had even earlier threatened to leave the party after his close aide was removed from the party’s Cachar district president last year.

In addition to this factionalism, the ambition of former chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s son Gaurav Gogoi, current Lok Sabha MP from the Kaliabor seat, is adding fuel to the fire.

He wants to contest from the "safe” Nagaon seat, currently held by the party's Pradyot Bordoloi. Gogoi’s Kaliabor seat has been changed to Kaziranga with a reduced number of Muslim voters. As a result, he is unwilling to contest this seat. The party may witness another big exit if Bordoloi is denied a ticket from his constituency.

Senior party leaders searching for "safe seats” show that defeating the BJP, for now, seems to be the least priority for them. They are more eager to ensure their political survival. This attitude doesn’t send a good message to the voters.

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AAP Announces To Contest From 3 Seats

Taking advantage of the crisis within the Congress, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in February announced the candidates for three Lok Sabha constituencies – Guwahati, Sonitpur, and Dibrugarh.

In Guwahati, the party nominated its State President Bhaben Choudhury as the candidate. Earlier there were reports that Congress was willing to cede a seat for the party, most probably the one in Guwahati.

The party’s announcement came at a time when the Opposition bloc was yet to reach a consensus to field a single candidate against the BJP-led NDA.
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In the Northeastern state, AAP doesn't have a presence in all the regions. Its presence is limited to some pockets of urban areas but despite this, the party believes that it can give a good fight against the BJP.

The party’s confidence is rooted in its electoral victories in some urban pockets of the state. In the Tinsukia Municipal Board election of 2022, AAP emerged as an Opposition party by winning a seat while the Congress drew a blank. It also secured a seat in the North Lakhimpur Municipal Board elections.

Later, in the same year, AAP won a seat in the much prestigious Guwahati Municipal Corporation and polled 10.69%. The Congress failed to win a seat and registered 13.71% votes – just 3% more than the AAP.

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AAP Trying To Gain From a Weakened Congress

After many difficulties, AAP and Congress sealed alliance deals in Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana and Goa officially. One can understand why the AAP-Congress didn’t agree to the alliance in Punjab where the former is the ruling party and the latter is the main Opposition party – and the BJP remains a negligible force.

But this deal isn’t yet extended to Assam, despite the fact that the AAP isn’t a stronger force. It doesn’t have its own strength to win a single Lok Sabha seat. But it is still adamant and has even refuted those reports that claimed that it would withdraw candidates from two seats.

It, however, still believes that the INDIA bloc would support it in the three seats and also stated that it would support the bloc in other seats.

But why is the AAP so adamant to contest in 3 seats? Is this a part of pressure politics from AAP on Congress? Yes.

The party’s strategy doesn’t seem to be the upcoming Lok Sabha polls – its eyes seem to be set on the 2026 state elections. The party believes that Congress has been weakening in the state and this is likely to continue even after the Lok Sabha polls.

This is the reason that AAP has been eager to contest more than one Lok Sabha seat in the state in order to create a space for itself in the near future.

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Lack of Cohesion Likely To Hurt INDIA Bloc

AAP’s stand to contest the three seats is likely to create problems for the unity of the INDIA bloc. The Dibrugarh seat is eyed by the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP), a regional party formed ahead of the last Assembly Polls and led by Lurinjyoti Gogoi.

In comparison to AAP, the party has some presence in Upper Assam and other areas dominated by the Assamese Hindus. According to reports, the Congress too is ready to cede the Dibrugarh seat to the AJP but now with AAP’s refusal to withdraw, the situation remains complicated for the INDIA bloc.
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On the other hand, CPI(M) too is bargaining hard for the Barpeta Lok Sabha constituency, having an incumbent Congress MP. The Left party, which still has a few pockets of influence, has even threatened to contest separately in this constituency if the grand old party doesn’t allot it this seat.

Apart from this, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, which is also a part of the Opposition bloc in the state, is also pushing to contest at least two seats. TMC wants to contest at least a seat from the Bengali Barak Valley – either Silchar seat, now a Scheduled Castes seat, or Karimganj seat, a Muslim-dominated seat which till 2019 was a reserved seat for the Scheduled Castes.

If reports are to be believed, TMC’s Rajya Sabha MP Sushmita Dev, a former Congress Lok Sabha MP from Silchar, is even arguing in favour of the party – despite having minimal presence in some pockets of the state –to contest all the seats in the state.

But the alliance in the state depends upon how much TMC agrees to the demand of the Congress in West Bengal.
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Although the Opposition bloc claims that its major task is to defeat the BJP-led NDA, the political actions of some of the constituents of the bloc and leaders within the Congress don’t seem to be completely supporting the cause. Voters prefer cohesion among the constituents and leaders within the alliance.

In the case of the INDIA bloc in the state, it seems that the priority of many Congress leaders as well as some constituents of the bloc is less about putting a strong fight against BJP – which already has declared its candidates for 11 seats and has also smoothly shared the rest 3 seats with its allies Assam Gana Parishad and United Peoples Party Liberal – in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls but more about ensuring their political survival amid BJP’s dominance keeping in mind the 2026 State elections.

(Sagarneel Sinha is a political commentator and tweets @SagarneelSinha. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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