National

Assam braces for the final round

New Delhi | Updated on April 05, 2021

The BJP is locked in a close fight with an aggressive alliance led by the Congress

The high-voltage campaign in West Bengal may have overshadowed electioneering in Assam, but the third and final phase of polling in the neighbouring State is witnessing an equally charged contest, with the Congress-led Opposition alliance challenging the ruling NDA’s aggressive welfarism by strong arithmetic and organisational strength.

The Congress has boosted its combined vote share of about 45 per cent with AUDF, Bodo People’s Front, Left parties and RJD. Its aggressive booth-level management is supervised by a team of about 700 people selected by Chhattisgarh Chief Minister, Bhupesh Bhagel. Bhagel crafted the Congress’s impressive win in Chhattisgarh and has been helping out with the party’s campaign in Assam for the last over three months.

The BJP is in a pole position by virtue of being the party in power and also having built a formidable election machinery with an impressive record in improving delivery systems and direct cash transfers to the people. In the final phase, however, there are more pockets comprising strongholds of the BPF and the AIUDF, and the grand alliance believes they have done a concerted work to trounce the ruling coalition.

Code of conduct

As the campaign ended for the third and final phase, both the NDA and the Opposition predicted their victory. In the final phase, the 40 seats that go to polls include AIUDF strongholds such as Dhubri and BPF pocket-borough like Kokrajhar. Campaigning for this has been rocked by various controversies, including the decision of BPF candidate in Tamulpur constituency, Rangja Khungur Basumatary, to join the BJP and a 24-hour ban on the senior BJP leader and Minister Himanta Biswas Sharma for his remarks against BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary. So charged has the campaign been that the Election Commission received about 2,813 complaints against the violation of model code of conduct.

Though the EC rejected the Opposition alliance’s demand to postpone the poll in Tamulpur, it was the major campaign point in the State during the last days of campaigning. It shows the determination of the ruling BJP and its chief strategist and Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s determination to crack the arithmetic calculations of the Opposition, which is relying on consolidation of the minority voters. The BPF had won 12 seats in the last election, but this time around, Sarma has managed to cause a split in this party with a faction, United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL), joining the BJP’s alliance.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who has been campaigning in the State for the last two days, said there is huge response to the grand alliance. Talking to reporters, he said the alliance sees tremendous enthusiasm and spontaneity on the ground. “It is now sure that Mahajot is forming the next government here,” he said, and added that they will draft a Common Minimum Programme if voted to power.

Yechury attacked the BJP and said the ruling party is indulging in “communal politics”. “The BJP’s communal politics will effect Assam for coming several decades. It needs to be defeated at any cost. If we cannot defeat such politics, then the balance and harmony of Assam will be distorted forever,” he said.

Published on April 05, 2021

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