Once the election results are out on Friday,All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) leader Badruddin Ajmal sees himself as a potential kingmaker in Assam.
Ajmal has been meeting leaders from both sides,the Congress and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP),and discussing the scope of extending his support,which could be vital for either party.
He met AGP leader and former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta in Guwahati on Sunday,while several top Congress leaders too are in touch with him. On Monday,a senior AICC general secretary drove to his house in South Avenue in New Delhi and spent about 30 minutes with him.
With no party expected to get a majority in the 126-member Assembly,Ajmal is projecting himself as indispensable for both the Congress and the AGP to form the next government. Poll pundits have predicted a hung Assembly with either the AGP or the Congress getting one seat more than the other.
Ajmals AIUDF,formed in the backdrop of the Supreme Courts scrapping of the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act in 2005,had almost prevented the Congress from forming the government in 2006. The Congress,whose strength came down from 75 in 2001 to 53 in 2006,was lucky that the Bodo Peoples Front (BPF) with 11 MLAs bailed it out.
Though Ajmal was not available for comment,sources in the Congress and the AGP have said the AIUDF leader has been trying to strike a deal for his support,for which he has laid down separate conditions. The conditions for the Congress include a ministerial berth at the Centre for Ajmal and at least four important ministers in the state,while those for the AGP include two state portfolios including that of Home Minister.
We have been talking to different parties on the possibility of forming a non-Congress after May 13, said AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowari. The regional party has already constituted a four-member panel headed by working president Phani Bhushan Choudhury to carry out these talks.
The AGP,which expects between 50 and 53 seats,may have kept doors for all non-Congress parties open,but it will be difficult to take on board both the BJP and the AIUDF. If the AGP wants to take the AIUDF,then we are out, said state BJP leader Mission Ranjan Das.
The Congress camp,too,is divided over taking Ajmals help. Ajmal cannot come to the party till I am alive, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has been repeatedly saying in the past couple of years. In fact a remark by Gogoi (Who is Ajmal?) is believed to have helped the Congress win,in 2006,several important seats in Upper Assam that could have otherwise gone to the AGP.
But,while Gogoi is opposed to Ajmals entry,APCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita is said to be open to the idea of taking him on board should the need arise. Gogoi and Kalita are two distinct power centres in the Assam Congress.
Kalitas idea however may not work,because Hagrama Mohilari,president of the BPF,so long an ally of the Congress,has clearly stated that his party would not support the Congress if Ajmal too becomes an ally. Instead,I will consider supporting the AGP, Mohilari has said.