Unlike previous State Assembly elections, this time, Assam has witnessed a large number of sitting MLAs including a minister being denied party tickets for the Assam Assembly elections 2021.
Although the parties are claiming “winnability” factor as the reason for denying tickets, seat-sharing between alliance partners and fielding of candidates of certain leader’s choice are have appeared to be the reasons behind the denial.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has dropped 12 sitting MLAs, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has denied party tickets to 3 sitting MLAs and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has dropped one of its sitting MLAs.
While the BJP-led NDA has AGP, United Peoples Party Liberal (UPPL) and Rabha Joutha Manch as its alliance partners, the Grand Alliance, led by Congress has 10 parties including All India United Democratic Party (AIUDF), CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), Anchalik Gana Morcha, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Jimochayan (Deori) People’s Party and Adivasi National Party as its partners.
Prior to the 2016 Assam Assembly elections, former Congress leader and powerful minister Himanta Biswa Sarma switched to BJP along with 8 other dissident MLAs because the minister’s desire to become chief minister remained unfulfilled after the 2011 election.
But this time, switching sides has been witnessed from both Congress and BJP.
While Ajanta Neog, a former Congress minister and Golaghat MLA and Lakhipur MLA Rajdeep Goala joined the BJP much before the election, BJP minister and Diphu MLA Sum Ronghang joined the Congress after the announcement of the party candidates’ list where his name was missing.
In the selection of party candidates, Congress preferred to choose its candidate on the basis of the views of party leaders, right from the block level to the state level.
Congress, which of late is working hard to ensure a win in Assam Assembly election, brought the screening committee and selection committee of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) from Delhi to Guwahati.
Congress for the first time has been able to bring in young leaders as their candidates in different constituencies and has been able to convince the other aspirants who failed to get tickets.
The BJP MLAs, who vehemently raised objection to the denial of tickets to them, are Hojai MLA Shiladitya Dev, who remained vocal on issues like illegal migration, NRC and CAA, Silchar MLA and former deputy speaker of Assam Assembly Dilip Kumar Paul and Diphu MLA and minister Sum Ronghang.
All these three BJP MLAs quit the party in protest against the party’s decision.
While the BJP leadership managed to bring back Hojai MLA Dev to the party, it could not prevent Dilip Kumar Paul from filing nomination as an Independent candidate from Silchar constituency and minister Ronghang from shifting to Congress.
Dilip Kumar Paul, who is known for his strong stand against syndicate raj in the Barak Valley, will give a tough fight against the Silchar BJP candidate, Dwaipayan Chakraborty.
Sum Ronghang is now the Congress candidate for the Diphu seat and is pitted against BJP’s Bidya Sing Engleng.
The other BJP MLAs who have been dropped include Ashok Sarma (Nalbari), Bir Bhadra Hagjer (Haflong-ST), Kishor Nath (Barkhala), Debananda Hazarika (Bihpuria), Dimbeswar Das (Raha), Rituparna Baruah (Lahowal), Amar Chand Jain (Katigorah), Joyram Englang (Howraghat-ST) Mansing Rongpi (Baithalangshu-ST) and Nabanita Handique (Sonari).
While most of the BJP candidates are known as Himanta Biswa Sarma loyalists while only a few are close aides of Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
The AGP, led by agriculture minister Atul Bora, has dropped three sitting MLAs. They are former two-time chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, who is representing Barhampur seat; former education minister Brindaban Goswami, who is representing Tezpur seat and Kamalpur MLA Satyabrat Kalita.
The denial of party tickets to Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Bridaban Goswami has been termed as a blunder on the part of the AGP but it is an attempt to sideline Mahanta and his camp, which continues to raise voice against the party leadership.
While the AGP has left the Barhmapur and Kamalpur seats to the BJP, the party has fielded newcomer Prithviraj Rabha, son of cultural icon Bishnu Prasad Rabha, as its candidate from Tezpur LAC.
The AIUDF has also dropped one of its sitting MLAs to leave the seat for a partner of the Grand Alliance.
AIUDF MLA Mamun Imdadul Hoque Choudhury, who emerged victorious in the 2016 Assembly election from Naoboicha by defeating BJP’s Rao Gajendra Singh, has been dropped by the AIUDF as Congress has pitted former minister Bharat Chandra Narah from the constituency.
Bharat Chandra Narah has shifted from the Dhakuakhana Assembly seat where his winnability percentage is meager.
AIUDF MLA Choudhury, who expressed his displeasure through social media, however, decided to obey the decision of the party, which did not allow him for even a friendly contest in the ensuing election.
Congress has dropped former minister Akon Bora, who represented the Dispur Assembly seat till 2016, as the party left it for Grand Alliance partner Anchalik Gana Morcha, led by Rajya Sabha MP Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, which has pitted Manjit Mahanta as its candidate.