His focus now on defeating the BJP in the next round of assembly polls in the country, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has initiated a move to bring the Congress and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) together in Assam. The state is headed for assembly polls early next year.
Sources disclosed that after an “exploratory” meeting with AGP founder president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the Bihar Chief Minister discussed the issue with Congress president Sonia Gandhi Wednesday when he visited her to greet her on her birthday. The BJP, which had won seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, fancies its chances in Assam from among the five poll-bound states.
Sources said the Congress has already indicated to Nitish that it favours only a tactical understanding with the All-India United Democratic Front of Badruddin Ajmal because any overt alliance with him could drive away the majority Hindu-vote to the BJP. While a tie-up with Ajmal could consolidate the Muslim vote in the minority-dominated areas, the Congress fears losing the Hindu vote completely in case of an alliance with the AIDUF. However, in case of an open alliance with the AGP and a tactical tie-up with the AIUDF, the Congress feels it will be in a better position to defeat the BJP in the state.
The BJP had got a total of 36.5 per cent votes during the last Lok Sabha polls, while the Congress, with a score of just three seats, had ended up getting 29.6 per cent votes. The AIUDF was placed third with three seats and 14.8 per cent votes. The AGP, which was in power in the state twice — from 1985 to 1989 and 1996 to 2001 — had failed to open its account and its vote-share had also dipped from 8.8 per cent to 3.8 per cent.
The AGP currently has 10 members in the Assam Assembly, which has a strength of 126. It has only one member in the Rajya Sabha. Sources said that the party faced a tough battle for survival and is, therefore, not in a position to bargain for much. They added that according to Nitish’s arithmetic the combined vote share of the Congress, the AIUDF and the AGP would put the three parties in an unassailable position and the BJP, as in Bihar, would be routed for sure.