Modi effect: Congress losing Hindu vote in Assam

Modi effect: Congress losing Hindu vote in Assam

Modi effect: Congress losing Hindu vote in Assam

A two-day visit by a BJP central team to Assam has grabbed the media’s eyeballs. It was the lead news in local language dailies like Amar Asom, Praitidin, Asamiya Khabor(Assamese), Dainik Jugasankha and Dainik Nababarta Prasanga (Bengali) andPurvanchal Prahari (Hindi) etc, which is a pointer to the public mood. The visit led by BJP president Rajnath Singh comes at a time when Congress is in the throes of redefining its approach towards the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in the State.

The AIUDF, represented by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, MP from Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency, is a constituent of the UPA Government at the Centre. But in Assam, Ajmal is pariah to a Congress Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. The Chief Minister had consistently accused Ajmal of harbouring a communal agenda. He rejected AIUDF’s overtures for political alliance with the Congress. This endeared Gogoi to the Hindus of Assam, whether Assamese or Bengalis, concerned at the lengthening shadow of the crescent on the North-eastern State.

Congress bolstered by Hindu vote: In the 2011 Assembly elections, the Hindus felt Gogoi was their best bet, since neither the BJP nor the AGP had taken any definite position on Ajmal. Both these parties wanted to get rid of the Congress at any cost. The Hindus realised that the ‘cost’ might mean greater Islamisation of Assam, if a coalition Government with Ajmal’s support were to replace the Congress. Therefore, they decided to give Gogoi a thumping majority so as to preclude Ajmal’s party from the corridors of power. The electorate was polarised on communal lines. The Hindu vote consolidated in favour of Gogoi, while Muslims rallied behind Ajmal. The AIUDF won 18 out of 78 seats it contested, 16 of them Muslims. But Congress not merely bucked the two-time anti-incumbency but increased seat count from 53 to 78. The Hindu nationalist BJP was routed. It won just five out of 120 seats it contested, forfeiting deposit in as many as 84.

Modi magic worries Congress: But the rise of Narendra Modi has changed the atmosphere. It has given Congress in Assam a tough time. Of 14 seats from Assam in the 15th Lok Sabha, Congress has seven, BJP four, AGP one, AIUDF one and Bodo People’s Front one. Congress hoped for increasing its mandate in 2014 by building on 2011 Assembly poll results. But it has been taken aback by Modi’s sweeping popularity. It is groping for the right formula to have a pre-poll alliance with AIUDF. Central leadership is keen to patch up with AIUDF for its enhanced stature amongst the Muslims. But it is unwilling to give up on the ‘Hindu vote’ now threatened by the rise of Modi. One need to flip through the pages of Bengali, Assamese and Hindi dailies to find articles and letters to the editor in support of Modi.

Keeping Silchar and Karimganj in mind Gogoi recently pitched for refugee status for Hindus who had entered Assam from Bangladesh even after March 25, 1971. Previously, all parties (except the BJP) treated all illegal immigrants after March 25, 1971 as infiltrators regardless of religion. This was Gogoi’s attempt to outsmart BJP. The BJP favoured putting Hindu refugees on a different footing from Muslim immigrants. But ‘Hindu Bengali Protection Committee’ affiliated to the BJP described it as Gogoi’s bluff. Gogoi had said the same thing prior to 2011 Assembly election but did precious little in the last two years.

Nobody listens to me: Gogoi’s third term with enhanced mandate is actually proving to be disastrous. The Government is apparently on auto pilot. Two of his Ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma and Rakibul Hassan are engaged in mudslinging over galloping instances of poaching in Kaziranga National Park. On Thursday, Gogoi lamented before the media that none of his Ministers obey him. I wonder whether any Chief Minister since Ajay Mukherjee of West Bengal in 1967 had made such an admission. With neither New Delhi nor Guwahati having any sense of direction, little surprise, the people of Assam are looking towards Modi.

Source: Niti Central