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In Assam, BJP returns to power; mandate by people to ‘protect culture’, says Sarma

In the run-up to the elections, the party used the rhetoric of polarisation, overcame political opposition to the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and trumped anti-incumbency with successful implementation of a series of welfare schemes.

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati |
May 3, 2021 4:14:54 am
CM Sonowal at party office in Guwahati Sunday. (PTI)

THE BHARATIYA Janata Party (BJP), together with its allies, is all set to return to power in Assam for a second consecutive term.

Despite a spirited fight by the Congress-led grand alliance or mahajot, the counting trend clearly shows the stage set for BJP’s victory. In the run-up to the elections, the party used the rhetoric of polarisation, overcame political opposition to the implementation of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, and trumped anti-incumbency with successful implementation of a series of welfare schemes.

“People of Assam have elected a BJP government for the second time,” incumbent Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal told the press in his brief first reaction on the poll results. Sonowal won from Majuli. In a statement in the evening, he thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his “dynamic leadership and unconditional help that he has been rendering to the state of Assam since 2014”.

At 11pm on Sunday, the ECI website said the BJP had won 41 seats and was leading in 18, while its allies the AGP won eight and was leading in one, and the UPPL won six. The Congress won 18 and was leading in 11, while its allies the AIUDF was leading in seven and won nine, and the BPF won three and was leading in one seat.

In 2016, the BJP had won 60 seats, the AGP 14 and the BPF 12.

“We want to assure the people of Assam that all the promises we had made during elections will be fulfilled in letter and spirit,” influential Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told the press outside his official residence in Guwahati. He thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda.

“Today’s verdict is a clear mandate given by (the) people of Assam to protect our civilisation and culture. Along with that this mandate is people’s blessings and support for the mahayogya of development that is ongoing under PM Modi’s leadership,” said Sarma.

When asked by journalists about the prospects of Sarma becoming the CM, he replied he did not want to comment on that. “The parliamentary board of our party will decide on this. Then we will follow that,” Sarma said.

Sarma won his Jalukbari seat with a margin of over 1 lakh votes. “It would be my privilege to represent the constituency for 5th consecutive term,” Sarma tweeted.

The three-phase election has been essentially a triangular contest between the NDA — the BJP, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) — on the one side; the ‘mahajot’ — Congress, All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), three Left parties and a regional party, the Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM) — on the other; and an alliance of two newly formed regional parties — Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and the Raijor Dal (RD) — on the third.

The BPF was an ally of the BJP in the outgoing government and had three members in Sonowal’s cabinet. But this election, the BJP ditched the BPF and went ahead in the Bodoland region with its new ally the UPPL. On Sunday, all the three incumbent ministers from the BPF were trailing.

The AJP failed to win any seat and its President Lurinjyoti Gogoi lost both the seats he had contested. Jailed activist Akhil Gogoi, who leads the RD, was winning his Sivasagar seat. Gogoi is currently in jail for over a year now after being booked by the NIA on charges of sedition and those related to terrorism under provisions of the UA(P)A following his involvement in the anti-CAA protests in the state.

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