It was understood and well taken that the Congress would join hands with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) someday in Assam as both the political parties continued pursuing the interest of minority people. Political observers may argue that their alliance becomes a necessity to prevent the aggression of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in northeast India, but in reality it is nothing but their survival strategy in the complex political landscape of the region.
Issues related to Congress-AIUDF friendship suddenly became talks of the people as both the parties came out supporting an independent candidate for Rajya Sabha from the State. Within a few days of poll-preparedness, senior Assamese journalist Ajit Kumar Bhuyan emerged as a consensus candidate for both the parties. By now, Bhuyan along with BJP candidate Bhubaneswar Kalita and the saffron party’s ally Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) nominee Biswajit Daimary were declared elected unopposed to the upper house of Parliament.
Bhuyan played an important role in organizing people against the Centre’s much debated citizenship amendment act 2019 (CAA) which witnessed a massive public outrage in the Brahmaputra valley even though it had little impact in the Barak valley. Assamese speaking groups came to the streets raising voices against the initiative to grant Indian citizenships to Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Christian and Parsi migrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
Lately both the Congress and AIUDF decided to contest the election in Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with mutual understandings. The Congress wanted to put candidates in 13 constituencies and the AIUDF was supposed to fight for seven seats. But the BTC poll, scheduled for 4 April 2020, was postponed because of the corona virus outbreak in the country. Contrary to it, BJP leaders decided to field candidates in all 40 seats avoiding its ally BPF, which has been ruling the council since 2005.
Friendship calls to the Congress were always initiated by the AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, a perfume baron tuned politician, but it was veteran Congress leader Tarun Gogoi who opposed it. Even after Parliamentarian Ajmal supported the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in New Delhi, the then State chief minister Gogoi continued opposing the alliance. Ajmal repeated his call of alliance prior to 2016 State Assembly elections too, but once again Gogoi prevented it. Founded by Maulana Ajmal in October 2005 soon after the Supreme Court scrapped the illegal migrants determination by tribunals (IMDT) act with a pledge to protect the interest of Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators, the AIUDF remains active in Assam. The party won 18 seats in 2011 Assembly polls. Presently it has 13 legislators in the 126-member State assembly and one member (Ajmal himself) in Lok Sabha.
Enriched with the support bases of Bangladesh origin immigrants, the AIUDF performed relatively well in western Assam and some parts of Barak valley. It emerged as the third largest party in the legislative assembly winning 14 seats after the BJP (60) and the Congress (23).
The saffron party’s two allies namely Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) won 14 seats and BPF got 12 legislators in the State assembly. Assam being the second-largest Muslim inhabitated State in the country, no political party can ignore the minority voters. But both the Congress and AIUDF remain more dependants on the minority vote shares and hence they seemingly would not take another risk of going alone in the forthcoming State Assembly polls scheduled for early 2021.
The changing tune of Gogoi’s voice says here everything. He admits that the situation has changed and he wants an alliance with Ajmal led AIUDF (so that the sizable Muslim votes are not divided).
Three-time chief minister Gogoi went ahead arguing that the BJP is a greater evil and to prevent the party from pursuing their communal and divisive politics, the Congress should go for an alliance with the AIUDF.
He also emphasized on electoral alliances with the CPI, CPI-M and other ethnic outfits for the forthcoming polls. The veteran Congress leader opined that the protest-demonstrations against the Citizenship Amendment Act 2019 (CAA) across the region paved the way for a greater alliance against the BJP. Ajmal, in one of his recent comments, stated that the alliance with the Congress would remain forever.
Meanwhile, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav slammed the Congress for forging an unholy alliance with the AIUDF saying that the oldest party in the country remains clueless about its direction to move on.
The author is a northeast India based journalist