The Assembly elections held in five states in the first half of 2021 are over and with it, the BJP failed to win in any state barring Assam. Technically speaking, it is not unusual, given that the Congress government had been in power in Assam for 15 years from 2001 to 2016. It was marked by solid anti-incumbency in the third term and voted back to power. Given that the BJP had been in power for only five years, Assam voters perhaps wanted to give another chance to the current government. Only that Assam had been the heartland of opposition to the draconian Citizenship Amendment Act announced by the Centre.
Technically, with the outbreak of Covid-19, anti-CAA protests gradually lost momentum, but two regional parties were born out of this movement — the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and Raijor Dol (RD), both making hefty regionalism claims. Both the parties performed disastrously, with AJP failing to win even a single seat in the election. The President of RD, Akhil Gogoi, peasant leader and notable RTI activist, won from Sivasagar. Gogoi became the first candidate in Assam to win an election from jail. He has been in jail for more than a year over his alleged Maoist links.
Once the Assembly result was out, the Congress started blaming the newly-formed AJP and Raijor Dol for its defeat in at least 10 constituencies. The Congress was profuse in its defence of how the split in the anti-CAA votes had led to the BJP’s win, especially in Upper Assam, the epicentre of the anti-CAA protests. However, how could the Congress say that the votes that went to these two regional parties would have otherwise gone in its favour?
The Congress tied up with the AIUDF (a party born when the Illegal Migrants Determination by Tribunals Act was scrapped) by a perfume baron of the minority community. The communal nature of theAIUDF could not be undermined, just like the BJP’s tilt towards Hindutva. So whom would the Congress blame for the polarisation of votes?
The Congress failed to project a credible Chief Ministerial candidate. Since the demise of ex-Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the Congress has had no leader with mass appeal. In contrast, voters were sure that if the BJP comes back to power, either of the leaders Sarbananda Sonowal or Himanta Biswa Sarma would become the CM. Should the Congress not introspect on its lacklustre leadership?
In states where the Congress lost power over the last 1-2 years, other parties filled that space. In Delhi, it was the AAP, in West Bengal, it was Mamata Banerjee, who was once in Congress and forayed the Left Bastion, and in the neighbouring Tripura, the BJP overthrew 25 years of Left rule.
The Congress is nowhere in the fray, except in Punjab, where the Congress has a strong leader in Capt. Amrinder Singh. The party continues to lose state after state. In Assam, how viable is it to blame the two new political parties lacking in the organisational scale and funds with the Congress’s political expertise? How would the party analyse its failure in Kerala? The party and its allies won 50 out of the 126 seats in the Assam Legislative Assembly. Even if they had won the 10 seats won by the AJP and RD, it would still have fell short of the 64 needed to form the government.