There is every likelihood that the Congress Party and perfume baron, Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF are all set to join hand to find next year’s assembly election together. And the most amazing aspect of this rather unlikely alliance is the fact that Tarun Gogoi seems to be working from behind the scene towards making it possible. Apparently, not very long time ago, Tarun Gogoi feigned ignorance about the existence of Ajmal, when he had launched his political outfit some 15 years ago.
Crucial assembly elections in Assam are slated to be held early next year. After being out of power, Tarun Gogoi seems to have started not just recognizing Babdruddin Ajmal, a billionaire businessman and a cleric, but also trying to have an alliance with his party too. Till now, he was the biggest stumbling block in the way of the Congress and the AIUDF alliance. With him now sure that the Congress’ return to power was almost impossible without having AIUDF together, all the decks seem to have been cleared to the proposed alliance.
Things apparently change far too fast. Merely 14 years ago, in the run up to 2006 Assam elections, immediately after the formation of what was then Assam United Democratic Front, the then chief minister of state, Tarun Gogoi had asked “Who is Badruddin?” It is not that the perfume baron was an unknown face in the state. He was among the biggest business owners in the state, and ran a large number of schools, orphanages and hospitals that catered to the needs of the poorest of the poor, throughout the state. Gogoi wanted to belittle the Maulana with a flowing beard, but cut a sorry figure in the process.
Ajmal responded with an extremely impressive performance in the election held the same year and his party won as many as 10 seats out of the total 126 seats in the state assembly. The best thing that has got him consistent support across the state is his firm grip among Muslims of Bengali descent. However, if you thought that his support base among original Assamese Muslims is shaky, you are wrong. There are large number of Assamese Muslims who too support him. Muslims make around 35 percent of the state population and Ajmal holds sway over a large proportion of the Muslim population.
While there are many within the Congress in the state who want to keep AIUDF and Badruddin Ajmal at arm’s length, however, the alliance seems to have got on very firm footing as the joint Congress and AIUDF candidate easily won the Rajya Sabha seat from the state. Renowned scribe Ajit Kumar Bhuyan’s victory in the Rajya Sabha elections seems to have cemented the alliance. And if there was any doubt in the minds of people, it all evaporated into thin air when Gogoi and Ajmal walked out hand-in-hand from the state Assembly after filing the nomination of their joint candidate. It is needless to add here that Ajit Kumar Bhuyan won the election, ensuring another seat for the Congress party in the Rajya Sabha.
While there are some dissenting voices within the state, however Congress-AIUDF alliance for the forthcoming assembly elections in the state early next year is expected to be officially announced soon. There is no denying that with both the parties coming together, it will be a very formidable alliance for the BJP to beat.
Despite winning a miserly 26 seats in the state assembly in the last assembly election, the Congress party had won not just the highest percentage of votes compared to any other political party, including the BJP, it had also won several lakh more votes than the BJP.
The BJP that won 60 seats was able to garner merely 29.5 percent of total votes polled. Its alliance partners Asom Gana Parishad that won 14 seats could get 8.1 percent votes, while another BJP alliance partner Bodoland People’s Front could win 12 seats and 3.9 percent votes. In comparison, the Congress had secured 31 percent votes, while the AIUDF despite performing rather badly got 13 percent of votes. This means that the Congress and AIUDF together beat the BJP and the alliance partners in a direct fight.
Both, the Congress and the AIUDF leaders seem to be talking in unison about the alliance of the two parties in the next year’s election. Ripun Bora, president of the state unit of the Congress and Member of Rajya Sabha, says, “Anyone who wants the BJP’s ouster, we appeal to them to join us. We will form an anti-BJP political front and we appeal to the Left, the AIUDF, and all others with whom our agenda to oppose the BJP matches.” While talking about the meeting ground of the two parties, Bora said that both the Congress and theAIUDF are unanimous when it comes to the Assam Accord. “The AIUDF believes in the Assam Accord and supports its implementation. The AIUDF is against the CAA. They are in the interest of the people of Assam. They are not communal — they are not anti-Hindu, but the BJP is anti-Muslim. Of course, they are working for the community they represent, and that is not a crime. Assam’s problem is not the AIUDF — the problem is the misrule by the BJP and we will fight to end this misrule.”
On the other hand Aminul Islam, a top AIUDF leader says, “We have to forget differences of the past, and work towards securing the future of the Assamese people and Assam through a common minimum program. We are hoping that Akhil Gogoi-led Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, the Left parties, and the new front launched by Ajit Bhuyan, will come with us.”
There is no denying that the reconciliatory voices from both the parties are going to make an impact on the likely alliance of the two parties. Tarun Gogoi was the main stumbling block as far as Congress and AIUDF alliance was concerned. Now with him mollified, things are going to fall in line and a few dissenting voices will be easily won over in the days to come.