In Assam, the Congress is gearing up for the Lok Sabha election, scheduled to happen in April or May next year.
The state unit of the grand old party has begun its efforts to unite the opposition parties. Recently, at a hotel in Guwahati, Congress leaders organised a meeting which was attended by 11 opposition parties. Keeping aside the differences, the parties shared their thoughts on overthrowing the BJP in the 2024 polls.
The parties that attended the meeting included JD(U), NCP, Raijor Dal, RJD, Trinamool Congress, Assam Jatiya Parishad, CPI, CPI(M), CPI (ML), and Jatiya Dal Assam. The meeting, which lasted several hours, thoroughly discussed how to stop the saffron camp's fierce election machinery led by a popular leader like Himanta Biswa Sarma in Assam and the northeast.
Following the meeting, an 11-party coordination committee was formed, with the president of the Assam Congress, Bhupen Bora,to be its chairman. Upon the conclusion of the Karnataka Assembly elections, they intend to band together for a sizable public rally in Guwahati to initiate the campaign for the next general elections.
AIUDF Clout in Assam
Meanwhile, it was significant that Badruddin Ajmal's All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) was not invited to the meeting.
The AIUDF is a strong factor in Assam politics. They have 17 MLAs in the Assam Assembly and one MP in the Lok Sabha. There is no doubt that the majority of the over 30 per cent Muslim population in the state is still behind Ajmal's party in electoral politics. On the other hand, left-wing parties have already lost their hold in Assam. The other parties, like JD(U), NCP, etc., have very little impact among the voters.
Akhil Gogoi's party, Raijor Dol, is still a non-entity. Though the Trinamool Congress has poached a few prominent leaders from the Congress, like Sushmita Dev and Ripun Bora, but they are yet to prove their strength. At this juncture, building a united opposition while keeping aside the AIUDF has raised many questions.
Assam CM's Problem with Muslims
Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma wants to convert a binary electoral politics in the state. He has openly said a number of times that he does not need Muslim votes. A section of the society has already accused him of cornering Muslims in the state using multiple strategies. The incessant eviction drives, closing down madrassas, etc., are a few examples of the Assam Chief Minister's clever tactics in that direction.
The Congress forged a grand alliance with the AIUDF and fought the last Assam Assembly election together. But after the alliance failed to overthrow the BJP from power in the state, the relationship soured. The state Congress president, Bhupen Bora, has repeatedly declared that they will not ally with the AIUDF in the near future. He alleged that Ajmal's party helped the BJP by issuing provocative statements that actually consolidated Hindu votes towards the Bharatiya Janata Party.
AIUDF says that a few Congress MLAs voted in favour of the NDA's presidential candidate, Droupadi Murmu, and even cross-voted in the Rajya Sabha election to help the BJP.
These allegations and counter-allegations created a wedge between the Congress and the AIUDF.
But, if the Congress and AIUDF fight separately, it is definitely an advantage for the BJP, say observers.
Consolidation of Hindu votes
Himanta Biswa Sarma will accelerate his efforts to consolidate Hindu votes in favour of the BJP in the coming months, and if Muslim votes get divided between the AIUDF and other parties, then there will be an easy win for the BJP in many seats in Assam.
Therefore, Badruddin Ajmal's party has questioned Bhupen Bora's striving for opposition unity. AIUDF MLA Aminul Islam criticised Bora and stated that the Congress has fallen into the trap of the BJP.
Note: The division of opposition votes will pave the way for the BJP's big win in next year's Lok Sabha election in Assam.