Tuesday, 4 June 2019

THE SHAH OF POLLS

Amit Shah - Courtesy: India Today
The dust on the electoral battle field has settled and the incumbent PM Narendra Modi and his BJP has stormed to another term in power, this time with a much stronger mandate. The saffron party on its own won 303 seats while the NDA finished with a spectacular tally of 353 inching very close to a two-thirds majority in the Lower House of the Parliament. Though PM's popularity with the masses and the lack of a strong Opposition are cited as primary reasons for the BJP's solid showing at the hustings, it is easy to over look the role of the party President - Amit Shah under whose leadership, the saffron outfit has been transformed into a well oiled election machine that barring a few setbacks, has won most state polls in India over the last five years.

Considering that PM Modi has not been able to deliver on many of the promises he made during the run up to the 2014 polls, BJP was expected to drop seats, especially in the Hindi heartland where it had lost three crucial states in November last year. Agrarian distress and unemployment were believed to only make the matter worse for the ruling dispensation. Though the Balakot air strikes managed to turn the tide significantly in favor of the BJP, Shah's deft handling of alliances in crucial states, his efforts in strengthening the party organization apart from the his conscious efforts to expand the BJP's footprints in the East and North-East seem to have paid handsome dividends in form of massive gains throughout the country, barring deep South.

Strengthening the Party: Early in his tenure as the national president, buoyed by Modi's soaring popularity, Shah began a membership drive where people could join the saffron ranks by simply giving a missed call. Leaders right from the Panchayat to the national level were given targets and their performance was monitored. Within months, the BJP with a membership of over 10 crores became the largest political party in the world. Next, as four states went to polls, in the later half of 2014, the former Gujarat Home Minister began replicating his 2014 UP success story across the nation. Panna Pramukhs, responsible for about 8-10 families that figured on a single page of electoral rolls in a constituency, were appointed throughout the country. Key strategists from the RSS like Ram Madhav were roped into the party. In the run up to the national elections, programs like 'Mera Booth, Sabse Majbhoot' were launched to boost morale of party workers. Over the span of five years, Shah's many moves at strengthening the party, like those mentioned above, paid rich dividends as the enthused party cadre tapped in Modi's popularity to win a landslide victory.

Stitching Key Alliances: Once the pioneer of coalition politics in India, it was said that Modi's autocratic way of functioning was pushing key allies away from the BJP. Months before the polls, Shah began getting disgruntled NDA partners on board. Shiv Sena which had been the most trenchant opponent of the BJP and the PM in the last term was convinced to remain within the NDA in spite of the party supremo Uddhav Thackeray's earlier announcement of going to the hustings all alone. Nitish Kumar led JD-U was allocated 17 seats with the BJP even giving away seats that they had won in 2014 as a part of the seat sharing arrangement in Bihar. In Assam, the AGP which had left the NDA protesting over the Citizenship Bill too was convinced to back the saffron outfit for the national polls. In the south, the BJP put up an impressive front including the ruling AIADMK, Ramdos led PMK, actor turned politician Vijaykant led DMDK and so on.

As the results started trickling in on 23rd May, Shah's effort seem to have bore fruits. Though the DMK led front swept Tamil Nadu, in other places it was the NDA that trounced the UPA. JD-U won all but one of the 17 seats it contested as the NDA won 39 of the 40 seats in Bihar. Shiv Sena won 18 of the 23 seats it contested in Maharashtra with the NDA ending with a solid tally of 41 in Maharashtra. In Assam, the NDA once again proved its might bagging 9 of the 14 seats in the state.

Expanding party's footprints: Perhaps, Amit Shah's biggest achievement as the BJP national president has been his ability to expand the party's foot prints in hitherto unknown lands. Till 2014, the saffron outfit was considered as party with its base in the Hindi heartland and western India. Under Shah though, the party has made significant in roads into states like Odisha, Bengal and the North-East.

The BJP first emerged as the real challenger to Naveen Patnaik in the 2017 Panchayat polls when it stood second to the BJD. In the national polls, the party won 8 seats, an improvement of 7 over its performance in the last Lok Sabha elections. In Telangana, the saffron outfit shocked CM KCR and his TRS by winning 4 seats. This is an accomplishment considering that the pink party had swept the state polls held earlier this year. In the North East, the BJP and its partners in the NEDA won 18 of the 25 parliamentary seats. This region, till sometime back had minimal BJP presence and was see as a Congress bastion. But the story of 2019 polls was Bengal where the saffron outfit did the unthinkable, winning 18 seats and emerging as the biggest threat to CM Mamta Bannerjee's TMC.

Shah's hard work and perseverance seem to have caught the eye of the PM too. Shah has been inducted in the cabinet and is now seen as the new No 2 in the pecking order. The Chanakya who is credited for transforming the fortunes of the party is now the country's Home Minister. Can he now transform the fortunes of the country. Only time will tell.
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Saturday, 31 March 2018

WHAT'S UP BEHENJI?

BSP chief Mayawati

Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) supremo and former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Mayawati was perhaps the most high profile casualty, amongst the many regional leaders who fell victim to the phenomenal Modi wave that has dominated the political scene in the country since late 2013. Arguably, the most popular Dalit leader in the country, her party drew a blank in the 2014 General Elections that saw a resurgent BJP claiming 73 seats in India's most populous state. As Narendra Modi took oath to become India's 14th Prime Minister, Behenji, who has openly expressed her desire to lead the country on multiple occasions, was left licking her wounds.

Demonetization is believed to have hit Mayawati particularly hard; with finances drying up and several key leaders jumping ship, BSP was in tatters before the crucial state assembly polls. As if the humiliation in 2014 elections was not enough, the BSP finished a distant third in the 2017 state polls; its tally of 19 was its lowest since Mayawati took over the reins of the party from her mentor - Kanshi Ram. In what seemed more like a desperate, last ditched effort to garner some sympathy, she resigned from Rajya Sabha in July last year, accusing the ruling dispensation of not allowing her to highlight the atrocities faced by her fellow Dalits across the country under the Modi rule. Though her theatrics did win her some support from the Congress and several prominent regional leaders, her once vice-like grip over her low caste vote bank seemed to slipping away from her.

With her back against the wall, Mayawati finally gulped down her ego and decided to join forces with her nemesis Akhilesh Yadav of the SP to form a united front against the BJP in the by-polls to the prestigious Gorakhpur and Phulpur parliamentary seats held earlier this month. In what was billed as the first test for anti-BJP forces before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the SP candidates, backed by a host of parties, most notably the BSP, handed the saffron outfit a stunning defeat in the seats that were won by the incumbent CM and deputy CM, four years ago. As Akhilesh drove to Mayawati's residence to personally thank her for her backing, many felt that this was the beginning of a broad alliance of regional parties across the country whose existence was threatened by Modi and his ability to break traditional vote banks by talking about development on one hand and arousing Hindutva sentiments on other. The defeat of the BSP candidate for the tenth Rajya Sabha seat from the state in spite of the Congress and some Samajwadi MLAs voting in its favor was seen as a minor setback while fighting for a 'larger cause'; opposition leaders suggested that the defeat would further strengthened their resolve to work together. Behenji and Akhilesh made it clear that the understanding between them was on, 'in the larger interest of the country'.

Mayawati however, has a mind of her own; a champ of the coalition era, who made national parties dance to her tunes, the BSP supremo did a volte face three days later, refusing to activate her cadre in support of the SP candidate for the Kairana assembly segment. What prompted Behenji to break or rather suspend her short lived honeymoon with the SP is difficult to ascertain. Here are some possible reasons why the BSP chief may want to weigh in the many options before her and take time prior to committing fully to an alliance with the SP or any other party:

(1) Playing second fiddle to Yadav: Akhilesh's emergence as the face of the united opposition to Modi led BJP in Uttar Pradesh may not go down well with Mayawati. After all, she is a four time CM of Uttar Pradesh, has served as the deputy CM once and has been active in politics for over three decades. With such an impressive resume, she may not been very keen to work under the much younger Akhilesh, who is seen by many to be quite inexperienced. In fact, after the defeat of her candidate in the recently held Rajya Sabha polls, Behenji, speaking at a press conference pointed out that it was political immaturity on the part of the SP President to rely on independent candidate Raja Bhaiya's vote to secure victory for her candidate. Not participating in the by-polls may be her way of making it clear that she too is an aspirant to lead the regional block, at least in UP in 2019. Moreover, she has sent a clear signal that she cannot be taken for granted and her participation in the anti-Modi block will be on her terms.

(2) BSP's issues with pre-poll tie ups: Mayawati and her outfit have always been averse to tie ups with prospective alliance partners before elections. The fundamental belief behind this, at least the one that the party leaders put up is that while BSP is able to transfer its votes to its ally, the reverse does not happen; thus, while the ally benefits or that is what the BSP believes, it ends up gaining nothing besides the the fact that it has to vacate some seats for its partner. The loss in the Rajya Sabha elections may only reinforce this belief wherein a united Opposition including the SP, Congress and the RLD failed to secure a victory for Mayawati's chosen candidate Bhimrao Ambedkar. Though Behenji was all praises for the commitment displayed by the SP and the Congress in the polls to the Upper House of the Parliament, it is likely that the defeat of Ambedkar will play on her mind as and when she decides to stitch any alliance with them in the near future.

(3) Buying Time: Mamta Bannerjee and KCR have rolled the dice and have heralded the process of the formation of a broader alliance of state parties in their attempt to stop the Modi juggernaut in next year's Union polls. Meanwhile, several regional satraps, chief amongst them being Naveen Patnaik, KCR, Chandrababu Naidu and the Yechury led Kerala block of the CPM would prefer maintaining a distance from the Congress considering that the grand old party is their principal rival in their respective states. As such, there is a very high probability that in 2019, one or more blocks viz the UPA, the Third Front etc. may be formed to take on the BJP. Mayawati may want to weigh in the options before her prior to committing herself to any of the these. Meanwhile, Union Minister Athavale whose party the RPI(A) is a part of the NDA has invited the Dalit leader to join the BJP for the welfare of the down trodden. Certainly, the wily Mayawati would rather focus on strengthening her cadre and wooing back her traditional vote base for the time being so that she is in a more commanding position at the onset of 2019.

The BSP supremo is keeping her cards close to her chest; in the run up to 2019, which could be a do or die situation, both for her and her party, Mayawati may well rise from the ashes, like the proverbial phoenix and play a key role in the formation of the next government at Center, irrespective of who is leading it.
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Sunday, 5 June 2016

MEHBOOBA'S ACID TEST

Mehbooba (right) with father Mufti Mohammad

By-polls to state legislatures are seldom interesting and seven out of ten times, it is the ruling party that wins them, either due to their own popularity or to put it lightly, by 'effective' use of the state machinery. Either way, the odds get stacked into the favor of the ruling party all the more if they have completed less than half of their full term. Considering this, Mehbooba Mufti who is contesting as a PDP candidate from the Anantnag assembly seat scheduled for June 22 should not have much to worry about. Moreover, since she is the heir to the legacy of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, one of the tallest political leaders of Kashmir and the fact that she is herself serving as the Chief Minister, should make her task all the more easy.

However, the shrewd political leader that she is, the junior Mufti knows that her victory in the by-polls is far from assured. Though chances of her losing are bleak, waning personal popularity, deteriorating law and order situation in the Valley as well as dissatisfaction amongst the Kashmiris around the PDP's alliance with the BJP means that Mehbooba just cannot afford to be complacent. Irrespective of the results, the outcome of the Anantnag by-polls is going to have a major impact on the political career of independent India's second Muslim woman Chief Minister.

    Year    
 Event
1996
 Elected to state legislature from Bijbehara constituency as a Congress candidate
1999
 Left Congress to join PDP floated by her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed

 Lost Parliamentary elections from Srinagar to Omar Abdullah of NC
2002
 Elected to state legislature from Pahalgam constituency
2004
 Won Parliamentary elections from Anantnag
2014
 Won Parliamentary elections from Anantnag
2016
 Took oath as the Chief Minister of Jammu Kashmir

The Anantnag assembly segment fell vacant following the demise of former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7 earlier this year in New Delhi. His daughter and incumbent CM Mehbooba who is representing South Kashmir in the Parliament has six months to get elected to either the state legislative assembly or the legislative council to be able to continue in the office. In her maiden term, the PDP supremo's performance has been far from satisfactory. After keeping the BJP guessing for months, she took the oath as the state's ninth CM in April in spite of the fact that the Modi regime at Centre refused to accept any of her demands for special privileges to be extended to the northern state and its people. In the last few months, spiraling violence, rise in militancy and differences with her ally - the BJP on a wide range of issues has put her on the back foot. The firebrand leader appears to be have mellowed down a bit, as she settles into her role as the Chief Minister; her famed ability to connect with the ordinary Kashmiri on the street seems to be deserting her.

Anti-Incumbency: The poor attendance at the funeral of her father, late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was a sure indication that the People's Democratic Party (PDP) which had swept the Valley in the 2014 polls is fast losing its appeal amongst the masses. Mehbooba tried to overcome some of this anger against her family and her party by making the BJP wait before she took over the reins of the government. However, the move has not helped her politically, at least to the extent that she had hoped to. The dissatisfaction with her regime has only been compounded by months of deteriorating law and order situation and the spate in terror attacks. Though South Kashmir has generally been the stronghold of the Mufti family, almost everyone agrees that unlike previous polls, a victory in the Anantnag assembly segment is not going to be a cake walk for Mehbooba.

The PDP-BJP Alliance: The PDP's alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has not gone well with the Kashmiris. Though BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee may have been a widely admired figure in the Valley, the saffron outfit continues to be looked upon as 'communal' and 'anti-Kashmiri'. In fact, the BJP's views on Article 370, the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), its tough stance on the 'separatists', its anti-Pakistan rhetoric and the beef controversy has left most people in the region worried. Besides, a good number of leaders in the PDP top brass are said to be uncomfortable with this marriage of convenience between the two parties. The tie up with the national party is for sure, going to affect the voter base of the PDP. Of course, one could argue that the Muftis had no option but to join hands with the BJP following the fractured mandate of 2014. But then, there is no doubt that this will play on the minds of the Anantnag voter as he casts his/her vote on June 22. With the BJP offering to campaign for the CM, it remains to be seen if she accepts the saffron camp's offer or not.

Fractured Opposition: In all this though, there is one major silver lining for Mehbooba which in the end could decide whether she passes this 'acid test' or not. Though independent legislator and a fierce critic of the PDP-BJP alliance Sheikh Abdul Rasheed, better known as 'Engineer' Rasheed has opted out of the race, there are still seven other candidates in the fray. The National Conference has nominated Iftikar Hussain Misgar who lost to Mufti Sayeed in 2014 polls whereas Congress has nominated Hilal Ahmad Shah for the seat. Besides, there are five more independents who have thrown their hat in the ring. With the Opposition votes divided, Mehbooba should be able to scrap through in spite of a strong anti-incumbency wave.

What if Scenarios: June 25 is going to be an important day in the political career of the lawyer turned politician who is trying to emerge out of the shadows of her late father and assert herself on the political stage.

A victory, with say over 8,000 votes will give her the kind of political thrust that she so desperately needs. The cynicism around her abilities to lead the state will be put to rest for the time being and her alliance with the BJP will get some sort of 'legitimacy', however limited it may be. Moreover, all murmurs amongst the cadre for splitting with the saffron camp will be all but over.

A win with less than 5,000 votes though will at least force her to rethink her alliance with the BJP, though she is unlikely to call it off as of now. At the same time though, the anti-BJP block within the PDP will get a lot of ammunition.

A defeat though will be disastrously; not only will she be forced to resign from the post of CM, she would have not option but to break her partnership with the saffronists in a bid to protect whatever is left of her support base in the Valley.

Fifty seven year old Mehbooba has fought many a political battles in the past, winning most and losing a few. However, the upcoming polls to the Anantnag segment, her first since becoming the Chief Minister of Jammu Kashmir could well be her toughest battle till date.
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Saturday, 13 February 2016

WILL THE LOTUS BLOOM IN ASSAM


After the rout in Delhi followed by the ignominious defeat at the hands of the Grand Alliance in Bihar, the Modi bandwagon has all but lost its steam; in fact, after a brilliant 2014, the best in the history of the saffron outfit so far, the year 2015 has been one that the BJP would like to put behind, quite literally. The political setbacks apart, the intolerance debate, the Parliamentary logjam and the inability of the Modi regime to bring in the much hyped 'Acche Din', has to a substantial extent, hit the ratings of the Prime Minister and his party. To be frank, in 2016 too, things do not seem to be particularly good for the saffronists; of the five states that are scheduled to go to the polls, the party has meagre presence in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Bengal and Pondicherry which is unlikely to yield any significant political gains. The BJP is looking for one electoral victory to break the jinx and perhaps the state that could offer them an opportunity to do so is Assam.

Can the BJP storm the Congress bastion: In the last Lok Sabha polls, the BJP won half of the 14 parliamentary seats from the state thanks to the Modi magic, its best performance in Assam so far. In February, the following year, the saffron outfit made further gains in the north eastern state as it won 38 of the 74 municipal boards and town committees, leaving the Congress with just 17. The writing on the wall is pretty clear. The saffron outfit is now, for the first time in its history, the most popular party in Assam. It is all set to win a simple majority or at least finish as the single largest party in the state albeit it shoots itself in the foot, something that the BJP is quite capable of, as seen earlier.

PM Modi at a rally in Assam in 2014
Unlike the Delhi and Bihar elections wherein the saffron outfit was challenging strong regional players, here in Assam, the odds are stacked in its favor. It is a known fact that the BJP does well whenever it is pitted against the Congress. And to make matters worse for the grand old party, it is facing a strong anti-incumbency wave having been in power for three straight terms.

However, the BJP is not taking any chances. In a bid to further boost its chances, it has roped in the BPF (Bodoland People's Front) into a pre poll alliance which has a significant vote base in 16 assembly segments that form a part of the Bodoland Territorial Area District (BTAD), apart from having some influence with sections of voters in another 14 seats. Talks are set to be in process even with former ally - the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).

Most importantly, in a move that is different from the general norm in the Modi Era, the party has anointed Union Minister and MP Sarbanada Sonorwal as its Chief ministerial candidate for the Assam polls. Belonging to the electorally influential Scheduled Tribe (ST) community, he is known for his clean image. Moreover, a host of leaders, primarily from the Congress and the AGP have joined the BJP in the last few months. Amongst them is Himanta Biswa Sarma, once believed to be incumbent CM Tarun Gogoi's right hand man who has shifted base to the saffron camp after his CM ambitions were not fulfilled in the INC in spite of a long drawn revolt.

The Challenges in Store: For all those who thought that Assam would be a cake walk for the BJP, painting the north eastern state in saffron is not going to be an easy task. For once, the party is fighting history; it has never been able to form a government in Dispur in the past. Even in the last state assembly polls, it could get just five seats. With the Modi wave all but gone, it remains to be seen if the people of Assam will repose their faith in the state BJP leadership.

BJP's CM candidate Sarbanada Sonorwal
Perhaps, the biggest head ache for the party ahead of the polls is the fact that many of the promises it made during its parliamentary campaign in 2014 have remain unfulfilled. The Land Accord with Bangladesh continues to be an emotive issue and has not gone on well with some people whereas no concrete steps have been taken to deport illegal immigrants from the state. The promise of including several communities in the Scheduled Tribes category too has not yet fructified. Besides, the Congress is aggressively wooing the tea workers who are electorally influential in many areas of the state. And then, there is the fear of an alliance between the Congress and the AIUDF which could help consolidate the minority votes against the BJP. Lastly, the saffronists have to consider the aspirations of many leaders who have joined them lately while making sure that those of old timers and loyalists are not compromised; striking such a balance could be the key in wining a majority in the state and forming a stable government for a full term.

The importance of Assam for the BJP: The PM and more so, BJP President Amit Shah desperately need a political victory to break the spate of reverses in the recent past. Assam is all the more important since the party is in no position to win any of the other four states that go to the polls this year. A win here would nonetheless infuse some enthusiasm amongst the cadres, especially ahead of 2017 when the party will be battling for the all important state of Uttar Pradesh.

Himanta Biswa Sarma
Secondly, an important aspect of Modi government's foreign affairs is the 'Look East' policy. With Assam being one of the largest states in the eastern part of the country, it is essential for the BJP to be in power here to fulfill the PM's agenda. Over the last two years, ever since the BJP came to power at the Centre, the relations between Delhi and Dispur have never been cordial, with Modi and Gogoi taking regular pot shots at each other. A saffron regime in Assam will ease this and help BJP implement its 'vision' for the welfare of the state; if party sources are to be believed, this, apparently is not possible till the Congress remains in power in Dispur.

Last but not the least, for BJP President Amit Shah's dream of a 'Congress mukht' Bharat to come true, it is essential for the saffronists to make in roads into north eastern India, where it traditional has been a fringe player. For this dream to be realized, Assam holds the key considering that it borders six other states in the region. A BJP government here will help it expand across borders into Arunachal, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura. No wonder then, the BJP will come out all guns blazing in the fight for Assam.
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Saturday, 6 February 2016

ASSAM POLLS: LET THE BATTLE BEGIN

Sonowal with PM Modi and Biswa
After an incredible 2014, the once 'unstoppable' Modi bandwagon was completely halted after back to back electoral defeats, first in Delhi and then in Bihar. The 'intolerance' debate, rising food prices, the logjam in the Parliament and the subsequent inability of the NDA government to initiate much awaited reforms have certainly hit the popularity of the PM and his party. Modi for sure knows that perhaps the only way to regain some of the lost pride is by registering a major political victory; out of the five states that are schedule to go for polls in 2016, the one where the saffron camp is fancying its chances is the north-eastern state of Assam, wherein the BJP won half of the fourteen parliamentary seats in the last General Polls held in 2014.

In what has become a norm within the BJP in the NaMo era, the party's campaign was kick started by the PM when he addressed a rally in Kokrajhar in western Assam in January where he urged the people to give his party a chance to form a government at Dispur. Earlier this week, he also attended a meeting of tea workers who form a substantial chunk of voters where he famously blamed the Gandhis for holding up key legislation that he claimed would help the people of the state.

Meanwhile, the BJP seems to have learnt its lessons from the debacle in Bihar and Delhi. Sarbananda Sonowal, the Union Minister for Sports and Youth Affairs representing Lakhimpur in the Lok Sabha has been anointed to lead the saffron camp for the upcoming polls. The entry of Himanta Biswa Sarma who was once considered to be close to incumbent CM Tarun Gogoi into the party fold has added to its chances of winning. With the elections expected to be a close contest, the tie up with the BPF (Bodoland People's Front) which has considerable clout in the autonomous councils in the north-eastern state is expected to bring in more acceptance to the BJP which has never ruled Assam. On top of these positives is of course the massive anti-incumbency against the ruling Congress which the BJP could easily leverage to its advantage. Unless it does something really 'stupid', the saffron camp is all set to create history by forming its first government in Dispur or at least emerge as the single largest party in the legislative assembly in case of a fractured mandate.


CM Tarun Gogoi at an election rally
On the other hand, the Congress camp is feeling 'jittery' ahead of the elections. Having been in power in the state for three consecutive terms, CM Tarun Gogoi is facing the heat even as he tries to set the stage for his son Gaurav to succeed him, upholding a long time Congress tradition. The rout in the General Elections followed by a dismal performance in the municipal polls has adversely affected cadre morale; the departure of Biswa, once considered the blue-eyed boy of Gogoi has further dented their chances. However, some believe that this could well be a blessing in disguise since it could rid the party of factionalism, credited by many to be the real reason for the mess that the grand old party finds itself in its stronghold.

However, speaking at a press conference after PM Modi's January rally, Gogoi seemed to be confident of his party winning a straight fourth term in the state. In fact, what he was suggesting is perhaps the only way for the Congress to somehow hang on to power in Assam; if the INC can manage to build a grand alliance, the way Nitish and Lalu did in Bihar, then it has a very good chance of at least keeping the BJP at bay. Even if a formal pre-poll tie up with 'like-minded' parties is not possible, a well thought out strategy to defeat the BJP could also do the trick. But then, are the AGP and the AIUDF ready to be a part of such a formation, either formally or informally is something that will be clear in the next few weeks.


Badruddin Ajmal 
The joker in the pack is the AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front) which has been constantly improving its performance in the state over the last decade. Floated by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal, the regional outfit which has a substantial voter base in the southern parts of Assam finished as the second largest party in the last state polls with 18 seats and then ended up with a tally of three in the parliamentary elections. As of now, the party has not responded to calls to form an anti-BJP front in Assam ahead of the polls. Most observers believe that the party is keeping its options open. In case of a hung assembly, it could end up becoming the 'king maker'. With this in mind, the AIUDF is concentrating on reaching out beyond its traditional vote base comprising of minority votes so that it can maximize its results.


Once a major political player in the state, the AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) is being wooed aggressively, both by the BJP and the Congress for a pre-poll tie up. However, as of now, the party has managed to stay away from both the national parties. The upcoming elections though are a litmus test for the AGP. Though it was in power for two terms in the state in the past, its popularity continues to be at an all time low and most of its leaders and cadre have shifted base to other outfits. No wonder, the party is trying to use the polls as an opportunity to stage a major comeback and regain some of its lost glory. Will the AGP succeed in its endeavor or will it sink further into political oblivion is something that remains to be seen.


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