Immediately after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, in which it had won a record seven seats out of 14 in Assam, the BJP had announced its “Mission 84” intended at winning a two-thirds majority in the state assembly elections due in April this year. But on Tuesday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived for his first election-year trip in Assam, he chose to start with a rally in Kokrajhar not organized by his party, but its new ally, the Bodo People’s Front (BPF).
The BJP had only on Sunday evening forged an alliance with the BPF – a party that had severed its eight-year old ties with the Congress in June 2014 – and has by and large assured the saffron party at least 12 assembly seats, thus making the task easier for the BJP to achieve its target of forming the next government in Assam.
While Modi, in his 38-minute speech at Kokrajhar referred to “goodwill pushing behind political differences” – the BPF had in 2006 helped the Congress form the government when it was much short of a simple majority – he chose former prime minister Manmohan Singh to attack the Congress party, wondering why Assam had so many problems despite a state MP remaining prime minister for 10 long years.
Not once did Modi refer to the series of ethnic clashes that had occurred in Kokrajhar in the past two decades, the last being in 2014. Instead he announced the government’s decision to grant Scheduled Tribe status to Bodo people residing in the state’s two hill districts, as also to Karbi tribals living in the plains. With this, Modi has probably also tried to get full support of all Bodo tribals spread across the state, as every single vote will count on election day. While the BPF has in its control at least 12 of the state’s 126 assembly constituencies, it can also impact the poll outcome in at least 20 other constituencies.
Instead, Modi made several other announcements, which included granting deemed university status the Central Institute of Technology in Kokrajhar and re-opening the Rupshi airport, as also providing more funds for various developmental projects. He however carefully avoided announcing a Rs 1000-crore development package for the Bodoland districts, one that the BPF was reportedly assured by the prime minister on Sunday evening in New Delhi.
The BJP, which probably has realized that “Mission 84” – as envisaged immediately after the 2014 Lok Sabha election – would no longer be so easy after the Modi wave had become history, is also looking for other allies to oust the Congress three months later. That exactly was why Modi also held a crucial meeting with representatives of six other communities of the state which have been demanding Scheduled Tribe status for several years now. The BJP had promised to grant ST status to these six communities which together have a combined presence in at least 70 constituencies.