Fairly predictably, the Bharatiya Janata Party in Assam has been afforded another innings with its victory in the state assembly election. And yet the party will have to rule with a reduced margin. Prima facie its attempt to polarise the electorate in a state bordering Bangladesh, its populist policies and development initiatives have effectively trounced the welfare guarantees articulated by the Opposition, helmed by the Congress.
The victory in the 126-member House has been convincing enough. Despite the spirited protests last year against the Citizenship Amendment Act, the state has voted for continuity rather than change. For all the turmoil over the cut-off date to qualify as a citizen of India, not the least because of the relentless influx from across the eastern flank, people have reposed faith in the ruling alliance.
Not surprisingly the Chief Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal, has greeted the outcome as a “people’s victory”. He himself has won the Majuli seat. To expedite growth and development, he has, in the moment of triumph, pledged to function more enthusiastically for all sections of society, on the basis of a holistic paradigm.
One major factor behind the predicament of the Congress was its lack of leadership, while the other was polarisation. The pitch towards polarisation had intensified ahead of the elections when the Congress aligned with the AIUDF. The latter was accused by the BJP of promoting the interests of infiltrators. A vote for the mahajot, the ruling party contended, would be a vote for AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, who has been criticised by the BJP for his eloquent sympathy towards the infiltrators.
The Congress threw its hat into the electoral ring as late as February. As the ruling party with its inherent advantages, it is pretty obvious that the BJP has exploited the time factor to its advantage. Congress infighting, the absence of an acceptable leader of the party’s state unit, and the rather controversial alliance with the AIUDF may have done the party in. In the psephological stakes, the discord over citizenship has not caused a swing against the BJP.
Among the prominent losers are the Assam Congress president, Ripun Bora and the Assam Jatiya Parishad chief, Lurinjyoti Gogoi. As it turned out, the party’s alliance with the AIUDF helped the latter more than it did the Congress. In the context of an extremely sensitive issue, the Congress has shot itself in the foot. It is fervently to be hoped that the BJP will not initiate a high-voltage campaign on citizenship.