Is One-Time Kingmaker – AASU - Back in the Political Reckoning of Assam?
Groundwork for new political party from Feb 2020
The turmoil over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) could see the rise of a new political party in Assam ahead of the 2021 assembly elections. The All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) is hinting at the launch of an alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Indian National Congress (INC).
All set for a new political party?
AAU, Assam’s politically active students’ organization, is all set to create conditions that will ensure the birth of a new political party that would cater to the state’s regional aspirations. If this happens it will be a recall of the 1980s where a similar agitation happened against illegal migrants under the leadership of the AASU. With the demand of that time, AASU had to the form the political party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which ruled the state for two terms albeit not continuously. However, this time, the AGP finds itself alienated from AASU’s support because of its support to the CAA in the Parliament.
The time has come when the leaders of the “jatiyo sangathans,” civil society members and artistes wish to protect the indigenous people from cultural and linguistic threats and they will be on board when the new political party is formed.
Time for political alternative in Assam is here!
In a recent telephonic interview with G Plus, AASU General Secretary Lurin Jyoti Gogoi did not deny the possibility of floating a new political party. He said, “People are looking for a political alternative in Assam. It is because every political party who came to power betrayed the people of Assam. We all know that the Congress used illegal immigrants as their vote bank. People had high expectations from the BJP as they had promised to implement the Assam Accord in letter and spirit. Now, they too betrayed us by bringing in the CAA. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), born out of the AASU, too betrayed the people by supporting the CAA. Thus, people are now looking for a political alternative with a true ideology of Axomiya Jatiyotabad (Assamese Nationalism) to protect the interest of the indigenous people of Assam.”
On the other hand, AASU President, Dipanka Kumar Nath said recently in Goalpara, “There is a need for a political party which is concerned about the indigenous people in Assam as all the political parties have failed to protect the people. We will start planning soon and the groundwork for the new party will start post-February onwards.”
He also recently said at a public event, “We are in talks with Silpi Samaj (artist fraternity) and are also discussing with the people of Assam to think about an alternative. With the permission of the people of Assam, we will not hesitate to go in that direction and launch a new political party”.
But AASU will remain apolitical!
Though the AASU has started all talks to form the political party already and to start the ground work right post this February, it will remain apolitical. This has been said by AASU President Dipanka Nath. Nath said, “AASU will remain apolitical. But, in the interest of the people, along with Silpi Samaj, we are ready to go in that direction.” But who will lead this political party? Dipanka Nath and Lurin Jyoti Gogoi? Or will AASU Advisor Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharyya be a new avatar of Prafulla Mahanta, the former chief minister from AGP?
However, AASU activists maintain that they will remain apolitical and will help only in creating an environment for such a political move. One of the AASU activists (who did not wish to be named), said, “Ballot is the strongest form of protest. People are wondering, how long we will continue with our protests. What will be its outcome? This is the reason why the people of Assam want a regional party which can represent the Assamese society in a real sense.”
All decisions, which need to be taken politically in the state Assembly or Lok Sabha/Rajya Sabha, be it land rights for indigenous people, implementations of the Language Act, etc can be done only through legislative power. So the people of Assam want a strong regional force that can protect the interests of the indigenous people.”
So is AASU, the kingmaker, back?
AASU has successfully brought many faces to Assam’s political field, right from ex CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta to current CM Sarbananda Sonowal. Atul Bora (Sr), Atul Bora (Jr), Bharat Narah, Late Bhrigu Kr Phukan, Tapan Kr Gogoi, Sankar Prasad Rai and the list never ends. And now the AASU-led anti-CAA movement is all set to give birth to a new set of destiny makers of Assam. AASU is set to project a set of influential leaders of the current times through the discussed political party. In this background, the first names will be Dr Samujjal Kr Bhattacharyya, Lurinjyoti Gogoi and Dipanka Kr Nath from AASU and Palash Changmai from Axom Jatiyotabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad. With this whole scenario, AASU is likely to be seen as the kingmaker of Assam Assembly election in 2021.
Fear of losing identity: A learning from the Assam Agitation
The political history of Assam bears testimony to the fact that whenever the Assamese are fearful of losing their identity, the ruling governments pay a heavy price. Congress’s Hiteshwar Saikia government in the 1980s is an example of this. The Assam Agitation brought AGP as the new dawn of Assam and it had ruled Assam for 10 years. The people of Assam can now relate the Saikia government’s activities with the current Sonowal government. With the fear of losing identity back, people are wondering if AASU will lead the state towards a new political party again. This speculation of a new party in Assam has started haunting the BJP. Consequently, several rallies are being held across the state for “peace and progress” to counter the agitators.
Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, while addressing the media on 1st January in Sualkuchi had said, “Don’t ostracize me, where would I go? I am your son, a part of you. You have chosen me to lead you, how can I let you down? I have never compromised with the interests of the people of Assam.”
100+ seats for BJP in 2021?
In spite of AASU’s announcement of groundwork for a new political party, Himanta Biswa Sarma, current finance minister of Assam, is very confident about the BJP’s performance in the assembly elections to be held in 2021. While addressing a rally in Jalukbari constituency recently, he claimed that the BJP would win 100+ seats in the 2021 assembly elections. He added that those who are daydreaming about floating a political party would lose their deposits.
Countering Sarma, Tarun Gogoi, ex-chief minister of Assam, challenged the BJP to get minimum 25 seats, if elections are held within three months. On the other hand, Apurba Bhattacharya, general secretary of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee recently said in a press meet, “The Congress is a national political party and we have nothing to say on any new party in Assam.”
Who would benefit through the new political party?
Though the new party will bring some challenges to the BJP in the state, it might dent the Opposition’s vote bank as well. From the last Assam assembly election and Lok Sabha election, the scenario has been clear that the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has made its strong base in 14-18 constituencies in Assam and has become the principal opposition party in the state. It won 18 of 126 seats in the 2011 legislative assembly election and in 2016 it won 13 of 126 seats. And from the current situation, the new political party will adversely impact the vote percentage of the Congress and AGP mostly, rather than AIUDF’s. Even BJP might be more benefited with the divided votes.
For this fear, Assam Pradesh Congress’s general secretary, Apurba Bhattacharyya said, “Our humble submission to the initiators of this new political party in Assam is that if somehow the new party helps the BJP to come to power again by dividing the Opposition’s vote, they will have to face the people.”
On the other hand, some leaders who are losing their political presence are now supporting the anti-CAA movement. If this new political party is formed, these leaders stand to be benefitted from it.