It is obvious that AIUDF cannot expect positive reportage from local media and support from the intelligentsia but can at least try to reach them through professionally managed campaign efforts, showmanship, increased visibility on common issues.
By Atiqur Rahman Barbhuiya
The author is a Guwahati based social scientist and
independent education and development consultant.
Amajority of the people, a majority of the media, as well as the Congress, BJP and AGP despite believing by heart that All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) is a force to reckon with in the upcoming 2016 assembly election in Assam, and perhaps for a longer period, think that mainstream political parties will not embrace the party as an alternative or an alliance partner except at the time of dire need in formation of the Government.
To me, if AIUDF is for oppressed people, it can protect their interests even as a strong and honest opposition. Congress has shown this recently by blocking anti-farmer land bill with the support of 44 MPs only in the Lok Sabha. The exemplary role played by AIUDF workers and leaders at the time of NRC preparation is a showcase piece of work by the party that even by remaining in opposition people’s interests can be protected.
I do not deny the need of coming to power, but believe that by being in power except a few policy advantages and that too through visionary and dynamic leadership nothing much will happen. At best pockets of a few new groups of people will be benefited. All Government works will go on in similar fashion. The system is made like this. There will be annual budget, allocation, spending by departments through bureaucrats under ministers for more or less similar schemes with little bit of increase or decrease for certain areas and certain people. Some development is bound to happen irrespective of who will form the government because India is developing.
Coming back to the main point, I would like to emphasize that it is but natural that at this juncture, Congress will claim that AIUDF is agent of BJP and BJP will claim the opposite and media will fuel the misinformation campaign. At receiving end is the AIUDF because of the absence of resilient media support for the party. The more the discussion on Bihar like mahagathbandhan model in Assam or West Bengal the more polarization of votes will be in Assam and WB and the BJP will have reasons to smile – there is no reason that an grand alliance will help the AIUDF in Assam or TMC in West Bengal.
The main argument put forwarded in favour of mahagathbandhan is to consolidate the secular votes or block votes. In other words it will be an attempt to not divide the Muslim votes. If Muslim votes are not divided it is assumed that secular parties like Congress, AGP will win. This is to assume that AIUDF has committed a crime by increasing its strength and scope of win ability and hence it has to leave the space occupied by it by entering into a mahagathbandhan. Hence it is assumed that AIUDF should not put up candidates in some constituencies to allow consolidation of Muslim votes in favour of Congress or say AGP if it is called a mahagathbandhan.
Though it should be mentioned that Congress should abstain from some constituencies to allow Hindu votes to make up the shortfall of AIUDF, but it doesn’t seem practical. In the context of Assam mahagathbandhan, it seems that identity of voters has been reduced to religion only. A grand alliance is not so plain and simple considering the existing social fabric present in Assam. If at all there is a need for a mohagathbandhan why is it not as a long term plan and in a dignified manner like in Maharashtra and Kerala? Why it is not agenda – based and issue- based, target oriented and futuristic?
In the case of Bihar it was different. There were RJD and JD (U) voters comprised of majority of Hindus and Muslims. Both had shared power for more than twenty five years in the state. In case of Assam vote base of Congress comprises both Hindus and Muslims while of AIUDF; its base is majority Muslims and a very insignificant number of non-Muslims.
AIUDF was never considered to be a political party expected to go from strength to strength in electoral politics by the majority voters. First five years of its birth passed by the intense speculation that the party will be non-existent or merge with Congress. When it was proved wrong and AIUDF increased its strength by more than 100 percent, from 09 MLAs in 2006 to 18 MLAs in 2011, it was branded as communal party with no agenda. The party has not been given its due respect as largest opposition party by neither the speaker nor by majority of the people and even by the media.
When AIUDF has equaled its strength with Congress – 3 each, in the parliament election in 2014, it is now speculated that it will ally with Congress or BJP. The speculation of merger, disintegration, and breakaway is no more there. The AIUDF should derive strength out of this forceful development. The strength of AIUDF is splendid mass support against almost all odds.
Even if political alliances takes place at last moment, I am doubtful that people to people voter to voter alliance will happen in Assam in the name of secularism like Bihar due to the completely different context and culture. Believing the saying that in politics everything is possible and thus alliances happens between Congress and AIUDF, the AIUDF is not going to get any seat in Upper Assam but rather it will be asked to leave claim of some of the seats in Barak Valley and lower Assam. I am almost sure, that in case of a pre-poll alignment with Congress the AIUDF will be in the position of AGP when it did an alignment with BJP. The BJP in Assam has been making grounds at the cost of AGP. The Congress may retake some of its lost ground from AIUDF at the cost of an alignment and will minimize its debacle in the upcoming assembly election in 2016.
All the way it is BJP and Congress who are smiling, backed by their pet newsmen and news channels for trying to force AIUDF into a corner and making it to issue clarifying statements time and again. Therefore, the AIUDF should focus on retaining its strong hold, convincing the neutrals and fence sitters about its prospects in elections and increasing its acceptability among the floating voters. The party should come out of illusion like ‘secular’ and mahagathbandan tags sooner than later. It is obvious that AIUDF cannot expect positive reportage from local media and support from the intelligentsia but can at least try to reach them through professionally managed campaign efforts, showmanship, increased visibility on common issues.
The AIUDF should introspect why it is not getting average media coverage of its president’s high profile well attended meetings in nooks and corners of the state. Despite national acceptance of Maulana Badruddin Ajmal as a dynamic leader, his good performance as MP, his benevolence, charisma, his charity, his CSR activities, why at the state level mostly his religious affiliations are portrayed. Professional approach need to be adopted to address this media neglect.
Finally the media hype of BJP coming to power may not sustain for long considering the way the nation and state is witnessing delivery from the capital of India.
One should not at all assume that BJP is coming to power in Assam. People should not be swayed by media hype or euphoria over BJP coming to power, as 90 percent media reports in Assam are biased or paid. The News Live can be termed as BJP live. Similarly, Assam talks can be seen as Congress Live. The news of Pratidin also leaves a lot of questions on neutrality aspects. Nevertheless, fasten your belts, the outcome of 2016 assembly election in Assam will be quite different from that of 2011 one. The outcome should also be different from that of 2014 Lok Sabha election.
In 2014 there was a nationwide wave of anti-incumbency against Congress in the Centre. The same is heavily in prevalence against Mr. Tarun Gogoi led government in Assam too.
The BJP floated over the anti-Congress wave in 2014 and then it was not answerable, but in 2016 it has a lot answer, especially about the so called commitment of Achche Din, Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas, black money return, price rise and good governance etc. As far as Assam politics is concerned the BJP has to answer its u-turns vis-à-vis the issue of deportation of illegal Bangladeshis, big dams, land offering to Bangladesh and NRC etc. Most importantly, Mr. Himanta Biswa Sarma, the biggest liability of Congress is now with BJP. The BJP has lost all moral rights to question the Congress on corruption in Assam. Also the nationwide intolerant issue is not going to die down very soon, it is rather increasing. Minorities of all religions, Dalits and tribal people are finding it suffocating to remain with a Government run from RSS headquarter in Nagpur.
By default it would have been an opportune time for the trio – AIUDF, AGP and BPF combined to form the next Government in Assam. The same is now overshadowed as the BPF has already decided to form a coalition with the BJP and AGP is still undecided, the party is yet to come out from internal issues. To me, if Congress and AIUDF can challenge or match up with BJP in campaign strategies especially by using media and social media to counter their prospects it will be an interesting fight. Till this day AIUDF is a strong player to reckon with in Assam politics and there is no question of ‘who is who’.