Badaruddin Ajmal pushed to a corner with the latest Congress candidate list
GUWAHATI: With Congress fielding seemingly strong candidates for both Barpeta and Dhubri parliamentary constituencies, the new found apparent romance between Assam Congress and the Badaruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has hit a massive road block. There were speculations that a tacit understanding had been reached between Congress and AIUDF by not fielding strong candidates in these two AIUDF strongholds in lieu of AIUDF not putting up candidates in constituencies where sizeable minority voters exist.
This speculation got further credence when Ajmal announced candidates for only 3 parliamentary constituencies of Dhubri, Barpeta and Karimganj. At the end of the nomination process for the second phase of elections in Assam, AIUDF is now without candidates in all but one parliamentary constituency of Karimganj. This move will particularly help Congress in Nagaon, Mangaldoi, Silchar and Kaliabor from where Gaurav Gogoi is locked in a direct fight with the AGP candidate Moni Madhav Mahanta.
While the rumour mills were agog, a faction led by Debabrata Saikia, current Congress Legislature Party leader in Assam Assembly, swung into action and managed to convince the central leadership that such a move would be disastrous for Congress in future. This faction further pointed out that the minority voters are moving en masse to Congress and it would be foolhardy not to seize this opportunity at this time or else the party would not be able to come back to power in Assam in 2021. At the end, the central leadership took a pragmatic view and keeping in mind the 2021 state elections, put its seal on the candidature of Abdul Khaleque, a liberal face of the party for the Barpeta seat and for Dhubri seat, Abu Taher Bepari, who had returned to Congress only recently after having joined BJP in 2015, has been nominated.
How does this impact the outcome of the Congress candidates in a few key seats in Assam? The news of a tacit understanding between Congress and AIUDF would have hurt the candidature of Sushanta Borgohain in Jorhat, as BJP would have tried to polarise voters in this constituency on religious lines. Jorhat has less than a lakh of minority voters but any news of understanding between the two parties would have swung some caste Hindu votes away from Congress.
Similarly, such a news would have hurt MGVK Bhanu’s chances in Tezpur as well. However, now with no AIUDF candidates in Nagaon, Koliabor, Mangaldoi, Tezpur and Silchar, Congress’s prospects have gone up manifold. Congress now seriously smells victory in 5/6 seats, which otherwise was not thinkable even a month ago.
BJP, on the other hand, is sitting pretty in as many as 5 constituencies – Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Tezpur, Guwahati and Diphu. Close fights are expected in Silchar, Mangaldoi and Karimganj. AGP, on the other hand, seems to be in the race in only one seat, Koliabor and will need to pull out all its tricks to wrest this seat from the Congress. Declaration of a non-Bodo candidate from Kokrajhar by Congress is very surprising as Sabda Ram Rabha would only eat into non-Bodo voter base of Naba Sarania, the current MP, thereby indirectly helping BPF.