Drastic changes in Guwahati's Political Landscape in last 5 Years - An Overview
G Plus was launched in 2013. Since then it has been witness to various changes in the political landscape of the city. Today, on the occasion of its 5th anniversary, G Plus presents a retrospective overview of the changes it has seen, reported and generated social opinion so far as the political landscape of the city is concerned.
2013 GMC elections
The launch of G Plus was concurrent to the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) council elections. The Congress swept the GMC polls and Late Abir Patra was elected Mayor. But towards the end of 2015, 3 Congress councillors converted to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and with the support of the MP and the MLAs, BJP formed the council with Mrigen Sarania as the Mayor. Patra died in 2018 and the GMC council’s tenure ended on 20th July 2018.
2014 Lok Sabha elections
G Plus covered the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 in depth and a major change was witnessed in the city’s voting pattern that year. Manas Bora, the Congress candidate and son of former state minister Akon Bora was defeated by the sitting Guwahati MP Bijoya Chakravorty by a huge margin. A voter, talking to G Plus then had said, “We voted for change.” The present Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Guwahati for campaigning and the Khanapara field was seen packed with BJP supporters. Congress leaders like Rahul Gandhi also visited Khanapara to woo the voters but finally the BJP emerged winners. The LS poll campaign of 2014 clearly showed the huge fissure in the state’s Congress party.
Himanta Biswa Sarma vs Tarun Gogoi
As soon as the polls where over and BJP came to power in Delhi, Guwahati’s most powerful politician, Himanta Biswa Sarma, came out openly against his political guide and leader, Tarun Gogoi, who was then the chief minister. “I have no confidence in Tarun Gogoi's leadership. We are fighting for our party and under Gogoi's leadership Congress will come down to single digit in 2016," Sarma had said when he first came out openly against Gogoi. About 38 MLAs along with Sarma went to Raj Bhavan to submit their resignation in July 2014. Later, the party high command sent national Congress leaders to Guwahati to meet the dissident group and the pro Tarun Gogoi group. Himanta also had gone to Delhi to meet the party high command after which he expressed over media that Congress president Rahul Gandhi had meted shabby treatment to him; apparently Sarma was offered biscuits on a plate and Gandhi made no attempts to stop his pet dog from eating these same biscuits. The rift continued till 2015. In between, as BJP former president Sarbananda Sonowal was elected as Lok Sabha MP, Siddhartha Bhattacharya was made the state BJP president in Guwahati. Bhattacharya was also forming allies with Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Himanta joined BJP
Finally, the biggest change that Guwahatians witnessed was Himanta Biswa Sarma, MLA from Jalukbari, joining the BJP. In August 2015, the then BJP state president Siddhartha Bhattacharya along with Himanta Biswa Sarma met BJP national president Amit Shah after which Sarma had said, “It was a well established fact that the BJP would form the next government in Assam in 2016 whether I join the party or not." After a few days, supporters of Himanta Biswa Sarma organised a massive rally from LGBI airport to BJP state office at Hengrabari. The entire Jalukbari constituency was decorated with saffron colour and the supporters who were with the Congress party converted to BJP. Gradually many people across the city and the state converted to BJP.
2016 Assam Assembly elections
G Plus covered 2016 Assam Legislative Assembly elections thoroughly and all the four constituencies in Guwahati were acquired by the BJP-AGP alliance. Three seats were taken by BJP and one by AGP. The Congress party was seen to be making mistakes in giving tickets to their candidates; new players like Juri Sharma Bordoloi and Bobbeeta Sharma were given tickets and this irked many senior Congress leaders. Finally, Congress lost all the seats in Guwahati. The then Congress chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, tried his best to woo the voters by even breaking some election codes of conduct but still the Congress failed to retain power. The BJP alliance formed the government but Himanta Biswa Sarma was not appointed as the chief minister despite being the main cog in the wheel. Sarbannda Sonowal was appointed the chief minister and interestingly the man who brought Himanta into the BJP - Siddhartha Bhattacharya - was not given any ministry. Sources then said that Bhattacharya was offered the post of the speaker but he declined. He was also seen snubbing the swearing-in ceremony where even the Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present. Himanta was also made the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) chairman to plan strategies of winning elections in all the north-eastern states.
BJP losing popularity at present
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) might have grown in the city, state and the country but at present the city people are rather disappointed with the party for various reasons. With the BJP government taking decisions like demonetisation, implementation of Goods & Services Tax, lending tacit support to beef ban and its VIP culture, the people apprehensive of voting for BJP again in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
A BJP councillor with GMC talking to G Plus in anonymity said, “BJP is even scared of conducting local body polls because the anti-incumbency factor might be clearly visible.” He revealed that the party has observed that the voters are getting upset with the party at the grass root level.
The business community of the city is also not happy with the BJP government. A city-based businessman, Kedar Nath said, “It has become very difficult to do business these days after the GST was implemented. The process is still not clear and we are making lesser profits.” Nath has a transport business and he is a builder as well. GST is seen as one of the most unplanned decisions taken by any government and even some BJP leaders accept the fact. BJP national leader, Subramanian Swamy, said that GST is unplanned. Swamy also accepted the fact that even demonetisation was a failed move.
Similarly, other factors like the BJP’s pressure to amend the Citizenship Bill has drawn conflict-like situation in the city with many citizens not supporting the government’s move.
- Lok Sabha elections
- Himanta Biswa Sarma
- Tarun Gogoi
- Assam Assembly elections