March 9, 2021 2:38:00 pm
Assam will see a slew of ‘friendly’ contests among allies in the Assembly elections, the candidates’ lists of different parties released so far show. Moreover, the lack of strategic decision-making in seat-sharing between two of the non-aligned anti-BJP alliances have given way to speculations that the saffron party is heading for an easy win.
The new alliance between two new regional allies — the Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and the Raijor Dal (RD) — are until now contesting against each other in nine constituencies. Both the parties were formed in the backdrop of the massive anti-CAA protests in the state in 2019 and have expressed similar ideological views of regionalistic politics.
AJP president Lurinjyoti Gogoi, one of the most prominent faces of the anti-CAA movement who will be contesting from two constituencies, told The Indian Express that the ‘friendly’ contests won’t harm the prospects of the two allies. “We have taken a strategic decision,” said Gogoi. Another party leader said there were issues of “accommodating” some prominent members of each party, and hence the friendly contests.
But the RD, whose chief Akhil Gogoi will be contesting from prison where he is lodged on sedition and terrorism charges, seems disappointed with the way the alliance is progressing. “Definitely there will be problems in friendly contests. We have been talking about anti-BJP votes not getting cut; but now it seems even the regionalist anti-BJP votes will get cut by these ‘friendly’ contests,” Bhasco De Saikia, chief convenor of RD, told The Indian Express.
The RD has also lashed out against the Congress for fielding a candidate in Sivasagar constituency against Akhil Gogoi, questioning as to why the party would do so when it has been constantly saying it supports the anti-CAA movement in the state. “Akhil Gogoi was one of the strongest anti-CAA protesters… And they have put a candidate against him,” Saikia said.
Earlier this month, Akhil Gogoi had written a letter from jail urging opposition parties to field one joint candidate against the BJP in each constituency.
Lack of agreement on seat-sharing and strategic decisions to defeat the BJP-led alliance is evident in several constituencies where both the Congress-led ‘grand alliance’ and the AJP-RD alliance have fielded candidates. For instance, in upper Assam’s Chabua, which was the heart of the anti-CAA protests in 2019, the AJP, the RD and the Congress have all put up their candidates.
Such positing has led to some joy in the BJP camp.
“He [Akhil Gogoi] will be a factor to the extent that they will cut their own votes,” senior Assam minister and key BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma told reporters in Guwahati on Monday, adding that BJP will not be affected. “We are not bothered by what is happening in the opposition camp.”
However, the AGP — BJP’s ally in the state government and in this election — will have a ‘friendly’ contest in four seats with the BJP.
The Congress will be in ‘friendly’ contest against the AIUDF, the second largest party in the ‘grand alliance’, in five minority-dominated seats. Of the five, four have been sitting Congress MLAs. A Congress source told The Indian Express: “There will be some minimum discontent, but that’s always there. Congress has also sacrificed. We have gone by winnability factor.”