2019 Polls: BJP’s Plan to Improve Tally In Assam Looks Difficult

The BJP will struggle to maintain its 2014 tally while Congress has got a new lease of life in Assam.

5 min read
2019 Polls:  BJP’s Plan to Improve Tally In Assam Looks Difficult

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Even until 2018, it was a forgone conclusion that the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party, both in state and centre, was all set to grab maximum number of seats in India's north-eastern states. A major chunk of which was set to arrive from Assam, which holds the maximum parliamentary constituencies in the region: 14 to be precise. There was a broad consensus that BJP was all set to score anywhere between 10-12 seats and clean sweep the state.

However, come March 2019, and the tables have turned completely. Assam may very well spring some surprises on 23rd May 2019.


BJP Likely to Lose Nagaon and Mangaldoi

The BJP had won 7 seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections; its best ever tally in the state. Back then, it was majorly riding on the Narendra Modi wave that swept the country. The anti-incumbency factor against the ruling Congress, who was in power for 15 years in the state and 10 years at centre also helped the party. Many experts believed that BJP would better its tally in this election. But the local dynamics seem to have reversed its gain in the region.

As of today, the BJP is all set to retain at least four constituencies - Dibrugarh, Guwahati, Lakhimpur and Tezpur. Out of these, it'll still face fierce competition in Guwahati and Tezpur from its arch rival, the Congress. At the same time, it is likely to lose Nagaon and Mangaldoi.


BJP Dropping Existing MPs

The BJP has dropped as many as five of its sitting MPs for various reasons. Interestingly, in all the seats which it is projected to lose or face a stiff contest, the party has changed their sitting parliamentarians. These are - Mangaldoi, Nagaon, Jorhat, Guwahati and Tezpur.

Bijoya Chakraborty, their three-time MP from Guwahati has been replaced with a relatively unknown Queen Ojah, owing to her age (she’s 79). Ramen Deka (Mangaldoi) and Kamakhya Prasad Tase (Jorhat) have been dropped due to their poor performance and massive anger amongst the electorate.

The party has also axed its sitting MP from Tezpur, Ram Prasad Sarmah due to public anger against him for his alleged involvement in the multi-crore cash-for-jobs scam. On the other hand, Union Minister of State for Railways, Rajein Gohain (Nagaon) has also been denied a ticket due to charges of rape and molestation.


Congress Getting A New Lease of Life

After its dismal performance in 2014 where it won only three Lok Sabha seats and subsequent defeat in the 2016 assembly elections, many experts were predicting a rout for the Congress and expecting it to win not more than a seat or two in the 2019 parliamentary elections.

However, multiple factors in the state have given it a new lease of life. As of today, the Congress is all set to win two seats - Kaliabor and Silchar with huge margins. It is also projected to add two more seats from the BJP - Mangoldoi and Nagaon and one seat Barpeta from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).

Although the BJP made some headway in their strongholds of Kaliabor and Silchar, this will now be negated because of the AIUDF deciding not to nominate their candidates except for the seats it won in 2014: Barpeta, Karimganj and Dhubri. This will give Gaurav Gogoi and Sushmita Deb significant gains in their respective constituencies. Similarly, this will also help the party clench Mangaldoi and Nagaon from the BJP where AIUDF played spoiler and ate up significant vote share in previous elections. The story however doesn't end here.

Congress has fielded heavyweight leaders like their Rajya Sabha Chief Whip, Bhubhaneshwar Kalita from Mangaldoi, Former state minister, Pradyut Bordoloi from Nagaon, Former union ministers Paban Singh Ghatowar from Dibrugarh and Former Additional Chief Secretary MGVK Bhanu from Tezpur.


Impact of the Citizenship Amendment Bill

There is also significant anger amongst the local Assamese and tribal population against the BJP's aggressive push for the Citizenship Amendment Bill. If it loses even a portion of these votes, it can cost the party dearly. Earlier, the Asom Gana Parishad was all set to get majority of these anti-BJP votes but with their entry back into the NDA, these will directly be transferred to the Congress. It also needs to be noted that a silver lining in the Congress’s decimation in 2016 assembly elections was its massive gains in terms of vote share in two constituencies: Jorhat and Barpeta.

The other major party in the fray is the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). The party commands most of its support base from the local Bengali speaking Muslim population.

However, in the last three years it has been witnessing a steep decline in its support base particularly in the Barpeta constituency.

This was evident during 2016 assembly elections as well as the 2018 panchayat elections. This is majorly because of the palpable threat that the Muslims are facing due to the NRC exercise. Hence, there is a growing feeling that only a national party like the Congress can protect their interests.


Performance of the Other Parties

Realising this harsh reality, AIUDF supremo Badruddin Ajmal has been unsuccessfully trying hard to stitch an alliance with the Congress. Hence, he decided to field candidates only in three constituencies that it won in 2014Barpeta, Karimganj and Dhubrito avoid splitting of anti-BJP votes. However, it may just be able to retain only Dhubri and Karimganj where they're comfortably ahead.

AGP is all set to lose all the three seats as INC and AIUDF have good lead in all three. At best, it can be optimistic about putting up a good fight in Barpeta.

In NDA, as a part of their arrangement, the Bodoland People's Front (BOPF) has been given the Kokrajhar (ST) constituency, which it should be able to comfortably win.

Considering the above, in all likelihood, the BJP should be able to win around 4-6 seats, the Congress may win 4-6 seats, the AIUDF around 2-3 seats and Others may win 1-2 seats. Thus, the BJP's plan to increase their tally in the state to make up for some of their loses in other states now seems to be a distant reality.

(Bishal Paul is an author, screenwriter, filmmaker and entrepreneur. He tweets @BuiSpeaks. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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Topics:  Assam   Indian Politics   2019 Elections 

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