Assam politics 2016 experiences the BJP expansion in the state

Assam politics 2016 experiences the BJP expansion in the state

The year 2016 witnessed a major shift in political power in Assam as the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) made its first notable foray into the entire North Eastern region by winning majority in Assam Legislative Assembly elections and heading a coalition government with regional partners.

The matter of citizenship rights to persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring countries and updation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) also continued to hog political importance in the past year, with both issues spilling into the new year as yet unresolved or incomplete matters.

The year saw the downfall of Congress' successive three tenures at Dispur when it was reduced to a limping minority in the mandate in the state polls held in April.

The BJP scripted history by winning majority for the first time in any North Eastern state by leading an alliance of regional parties to victory in the Assam Assembly elections, under firebrand former student leader and then-Union MoS Sarbananda Sonowal.

People's angst against the Congress government, choice of proper candidates, alliance with regional parties and success in its strategy to project itself as an alternative to Congress with regional leanings are factors believed to have worked in favour of BJP.

The BJP had a meteoric rise in the state elections, jumping from its tally of five members in 2011 Assembly polls to grab 60 in the new one and taking its tally to 61 through a bypoll victory later in the year.

Its ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) enjoyed a resurrection in its electoral showing by managing to emerge victorious in 14. The AGP had won 10 seats in the last state polls.

The Bodoland People's Front (BPF), the other major ally of the BJP, kept its tally intact at 12 members, equaling the number it had in the outgoing Assembly.

For the Congress, it was a nosedive from 79 winning candidates in 2011 Assembly elections to merely 26 in this year's polls. It lost another seat when one of the victorious MLAs joined the BJP later and got reelected as a candidate for the ruling party.

The Congress, which had tasted defeat in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, had failed to repair the erosion in its vote bank in the last two years and poor choice of candidates in many key constituencies also further damaged the party's prospects, which was already fighting strong anti-incumbency wave after three straight terms in power.

The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), viewed as a major political force prior to 2016 state polls, had failed to consolidate its position, with win in 13 seats against 18 seats in the last Assembly.

Its chief, Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, was defeated in South Salmara LAC, which falls under Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency, a seat that he represents in the Lok Sabha.

An important issue that dominated the political landscape was the Centre's move for amending the Citizenship Act to grant citizenship status to persecuted religious minorities from neighbouring countries.

As the move is likely to legalise entry and stay of Hindu Bengalis from Bangladesh in Assam, it has been met with stiff resistance from various quarters in the state.

The six-year-long Assam Agitation was waged in 1979-85 over the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh and the Centre's latest move has reopened old wounds in the state.

Though the BJP has been supporter of granting citizenship to persecuted Hindu Bengalis all along, a section of state party leadership is still trying to sidestep the issue as the matter could snowball into a negative propaganda for the party in power.

The National Register of Citizen (NRC) work on updation also remained incomplete in the past year and the people of the state are expecting a revised and updated NRC next year, though no deadline has been set yet.


Featured image(courtesy): The Caravan

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