The BJP’s victory in the Assam election of 2016 was remarkable, and this time, the ruling party has set an even higher goal to win — 100 of the 126 Assembly seats along with its allies the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) and the Asom Gana Parishad (Mitrajot). However, the opposition Congress in the state is leading an even bigger alliance, a 10-party-led ‘Mahajot‘ (Grand Alliance) with major parties including All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) to contest in the Assembly election this time.
The electoral scene is fundamentally unique this time, with new alliances and the emergence of new issues such as the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).
In contrast, the opposition Congress has promised ‘Five Guarantees’ to the citizens, including: cutting off the controversial CAA, waiving farm loans, and providing micro credit to women in Assam. These promises have been made to seek votes for the Grand Alliance with an eye to snatch power in the state from the BJP-led government.
The five guarantees include five lakh government jobs in five years, steps to scrap the CAA, free electricity up to 200 units for all households, Rs 2,000 per month to all homemakers, and enhancing the daily wage of tea garden workers from Rs 167 at present to Rs 365.
On the other hand, the Sarbananda Sonowal government is advertising itself as a vehicle of good governance. The BJP’s ‘10 commitments‘ are: assuring a flood-free Assam through raking rivers and building large reservoirs for excess rain water, strengthening Namghars (community prayer halls), creating a taskforce to recover the land of Satras (Vaishnav Monasteries) and places of worship of tribal communities from illegal encroachment, ensuring food self-sufficiency, and creating jobs and entrepreneurial options. The current ruling government, the BJP, has also promised to distribute land deeds to all landless Indian citizens of the state of Assam in a phased manner.
As per an opinion poll conducted in early January this year, the IANS C-Voter ‘Battle for the States’ survey predicted that the BJP would come to power in Assam by winning nine seats less than its 86 out of the total 126 seats of Assam Assembly in 2016. It predicted a gain of 14 seats for the Congress-led UPA giving it around 40 seats.
However, surprisingly, the most recent opinion poll by Times Now-C Voter has predicted the BJP’s win in Assam by a thin margin over the Congress. Also, the gradual decline in the BJP’s winning margin was attributed to the recent political developments and the ‘Five Guarantees’ by the opposition Congress.
The 126-seat state recorded a 79.93% voter turnout in the first phase of polling for 47 seats, 73.03% in the second phase for 39 seats, and 82.33% in the third phase for 40 seats.
As usual, the people of Assam saw the visit of many high-profile national leaders as star campaigners from both the parties. This is besides the constant flow of the usual star campaigners from the two major contending parties for power arriving from Delhi in chartered flights to join state-level leaders and their respective party candidates’ campaign. These include Modi, the Gandhi siblings, and a litany of current and former Central ministers.
From door-to-door meetings to visiting tea garden workers, parties left no option to attract the voters. The Congress launched ‘Assam Bachao‘ on a social media video contest, asking people to make two-minute videos on the state’s biggest issues.
Meanwhile, due to the fear of horse-trading by the current ruling government BJP, the AIUDF sent its assembly election candidate to Rajasthan. Congress ally BPF also did the same with its candidates. All political parties are vulnerable and the fear of poaching candidates is genuine during this time.
The descriptions in this Assembly election have presented the electors with the option of choosing between those seeking to burn bridges and those seeking to build bridges in the multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic state of Assam. The political situation in Assam seems to be a completely muddled pool and who is going to catch that ‘Power Seat Fish’ is a million dollar question.