With Assembly elections in Assam barely three months away, regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) along with other political parties of the State has geared up for the upcoming polls.
The AGP, an ally of the ruling BJP, which won 14 seats in the 2016 Assembly elections, has pinned its hope that it will be able to improve its performance from the last elections.
Drawing its political ideology from Assamese sub-nationalism, the AGP has this time changed its previous stand and tried to rebrand itself with more inclusivity.
“The AGP and regionalism, in general, has been associated with Assamese sub-nationalism. But the AGP, keeping in mind the people’s desire for change, has opened up to all communities who have made Assam their home and are Indians as defined by the Constitution,” AGP president Atul Bora said. (The Hindu, Dec 6, 2020)
There is no doubt in the fact that the birth of the two regional parties –Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP) backed by AASU and Raijor Dal patronized by KMSS–has forced the AGP, which was born out of the illegal foreigners’ issue after the historic Assam Agitation, to change its previous stand.
However, the ‘inclusive politics’, which the AGP has talked about now, is unlikely to work in favour of the party in the Assembly elections.
The voters, whom the 36-year-old party has planned to target through its ‘inclusive politics’, are likely to prefer either the BJP or the Congress–AIUDF to AGP.
This is because the party has neither been able to reclaim its lost ground in the minority stronghold nor make an inroad into the new areas dominated by religious and linguistic minorities. The vote share of the AGP in the last few elections is a testimony to it.
While rebranding of the party is unlikely to make any difference, newly floated AJP and Raijor Dal will definitely eat into the vote banks of the AGP. Moreover, some incumbent AGP MLAs, if party insiders are to be believed, is likely to jump ships and join hands with the AJP.
It may be mentioned that Pabindra Deka, MLA from Patacharkuchi constituency, has already deserted the AGP and joined AJP.
Deka recently said some legislators of the AGP had expressed their willingness to join the new regional party. If four to five MLAs join the AJP, it would be a major setback for the AGP.
Another headache for the AGP leadership is former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, who may play spoilsport for the party. Senior party leader Mahanta has been vocal against the party leadership for quite some time. Even Mahanta loyalists had recently moved court against the election of Atul Bora as party president.
The AGP has already announced that it would contest the upcoming assembly polls in alliance with BJP. The party has said that it would seek more seats this year, especially in those constituencies where the party has had a grip since 1985. The AGP was given 24 seats by BJP in the last assembly elections, of which the party won just 14.
However, the BJP is unlikely to give more seats to the regional party rather it may decrease the number of seats given to the AGP. Sources said the saffron party has planned to field candidates in some constituencies, which were bagged by the AGP in the last Assembly polls. If the BJP does so, there is nothing to be surprised about as there is an emerging trend that the BJP no longer cares for coalition partners.
At this juncture, the upcoming Assam assembly election is a litmus test for party president Atul Bora and executive president Keshab Mahanta.