Just 10 years ago, it was almost impossible for any die-hard BJP supporter to think of Assam as a state ruled by the saffron party. In the 2011 Assembly elections, the Congress bagged 78 seats out of the 126-member assembly while the BJP struggled to bag just one digit.
However, today, the political map of Assam has changed drastically. The popularity of Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has forced the Congress to fight for its survival in the state, which seems to be a tough task for the former party in the current scenario.
After the debacle in last year’s elections, even after forming an alliance with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Congress party seems to be steadily losing ground in Assam.
The first blow to the Congress came when Sushmita Dev, former president of All India Mahila Congress and daughter of Congressman Santosh Mohan Dev defected to the Trinamool Congress, leaving the state wing of the party vacant.
There was a dispute between Dev and the state unit of the party over ticket distribution and seat sharing with AIUDF.
However, she then publicly denied the rumors that she was quitting the Congress. A few months later, when Sushmita Dev switched to the Trinamool Congress overnight, the party suffered a major blow, especially in southern Assam.
It is also surprising that even after a year after Dev left the party, the state unit of the Congress has not been able to reorganize its home district committee – Silchar.
In some private conversations, Dev admitted that the future of the party is bleak in Assam and the top leadership is also “reluctant” to take any tough decisions for its revival.
After the BJP returned to power in Assam, Shashikanta Das, a member of the Congress, immediately went to CM Sarma’s office, took his blessings, and publicly declared his support for the BJP.
Although the Congress immediately stopped him from leaving the party, Das is enjoying the post of MLA. Not to mention, his actions further embarrassed the Congress.
Rupjyoti Kurmi, a four-time MP and one active voice of the party has also switched to BJP alleging that the Congress has not given him proper respect even after his consistently good performance in consecutive elections.
Sushanta Burgohain, another Congress member, followed Kurmi to the saffron camp. Both won on BJP tickets in the by-election.
Since the AIUDF is no longer with the Congress, the party is set to lose many seats if elections are held today.
On the other hand, the Congress party has also broken its alliance with the AIUDF, although the strategy behind this move is still unclear even among party leaders and workers.
In Muslim-majority areas, the Congress can do well in the 2021 state elections because of its alliance with Badruddin Ajmal’s party.
For example, in Assam’s Barak Valley, the BJP could win only 6 out of 15 seats while the Congress-AIUDF combination won the rest. Assam Pradesh Congress Working Committee President Kamalakhya Dey Purkayastha could win the North Karimganj assembly seat only after Ajmal publicly endorsed and appealed to Muslim voters to vote for Purkayastha.
In the Rajya Sabha elections, the party suspended its prominent Muslim MP and MP Siddeque Ahmed for activities against the party. After being suspended, Ahmed not only pointed his gun at the leaders of the Congress and the ruling party, but he openly expressed his happiness as it was an opportunity to get closer to the ruling party.
The presidential election in July caused a lot of trouble for the Congress as many party members allegedly cast their votes in favor of NDA candidate Droupadi Murmu – who eventually became the president – over opposition candidate Yashwant Sinha. .
Assam Congress President Bhupen Borah and state CEO Jitendra Singh have warned of strict punishment against ‘cheats’. However, even after almost two and a half months, the party has found it difficult to take any action.
The Congress was in power in Assam for most of the three and a half decades since 1980.
Since the 2016 Assembly elections in the state, the Congress has failed to take various socio-political issues in the right direction.
The BJP, on the other hand, has put a lot of effort into mobilizing people from the grassroots level and formed fruitful alliances with various socio-political powers in the state.
The party’s efforts in the state increased when Narendra Modi (then Prime Minister) came to power at the Center in 2014, and the incumbent Chief Minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma joined the BJP the following year.
Sarma devised a strategy to destroy the Congress by describing it as a party based on Muslim votes, which would make the once mighty party lose its share of Hindu votes. On the other hand, a large part of the Muslim population is now rallying in support of Ajmal’s organization led by AIUDF.
In the coming years, the Congress may lose many of its leaders and MLAs to the BJP as Sarma has made it clear that many in the Assam Congress have maintained ties with him.
The reluctance and confusion to resolve the situation at the senior level made the situation very difficult.
Therefore, there is a high possibility that the Assam Congress may be on the decline even in the near future and completely mislead its image of a government which has given the party many stalwarts like Hiteswar Saikia, Tarun Gogoi, and Santosh Mohan Dev.
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