If BJP’s first elected government in the North-East is the biggest takeaway from the Assam results, no less significant is the resurgence of the AGP, which fought the polls alongside the BJP and the BPF.
The original proponents of Assamese identity politics, some might find it ironic that the Asom Gana Parishad — a regional party born out of the Asom movement in the 1980s — made a comeback with help from the BJP, which has positioned itself as the new protector of the Assamese identity.
Apart from increasing its seat share from nine to 14, there is another reason to celebrate for the party led by Atul Bora, who won from Bokakhat with a huge margin of 40,193. The AGP fought from 25 seats and won 14 — a success rate of over 50 per cent.
This is likely to re-energise the rank and file of the party, which has seen turbulent times of late. It started with the exit of its founder and two-time CM Prafulla Mahanta, who tried to head a breakaway faction but re-entered the party in 2008. The party also witnessed several other high-profile defections. A close aide of Mahanta, Zoii Nath Sarma, fought and lost on a Congress ticket from Sipajhar. BJP’s CM candidate Sarbananda Sonowal, too, used to be an AGP member.
Some political pundits in Assam speculate that a BJP-AGP coalition could have been part of Himanta Biswa Sarma’s electoral strategy to get a crucial role for himself going forward. They reason that since Sarma was instrumental in stitching together the alliance, he would expect the AGP to do his bidding in the future.
However, there is another section within the BJP which believes that the flagging fortunes of the AGP were changed by a wave in favour of the BJP, instead of the other way round. Off the record, even some AGP insiders don’t deny this possibility.