With only two days left for the counting of votes for the crucial state elections, speculations and calculations are on the rise. The election in Assam primarily looks to be a contest between two blocks—the BJP-led 'Mitrajot' and the Congress-led 'Mahajot' (Grand Alliance). The new regional forces in the form of the AJP (Assam Jatiya Parishad) and Raijor Dal look set to win a few seats, but their numerical significance will become clear only after the results are declared on May 2.
The BJP-led alliance consists of the AGP (Asom Gana Parishad) and the UPPL (United People’s Party Liberal) while the Mahajot comprises the Congress, the AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front), CPI, CPI(M), CPI(ML), BPF (Bodoland People’s Front) and the Anchalik Gana Morcha.
The Grand Alliance was formed six months prior to the elections and the BPF was not a part of the group initially, joining only after its alliance with the BJP was broken with the coming of the BTR (Bodoland Territorial Region) elections when the saffron party found its new ally in the form of the UPPL.
However, as the election dates approached, the Mahajot gathered momentum, conducting successful campaigns and also managing to stay united.
“The Mahajot fought the election till the end and was united. All the parties in the alliance whole-heartedly engaged in the entire process. We saw BPF leaders and workers campaigning for Congress candidates in some places while Left Parties' workers and leaders campaigned for the Congress or other parties in the alliance,” said Kishor Kalita, an advocate and regular columnist in Assamese.
Kalita said the exit polls may not end up being that precise and that the contest was tight.
The issues that the Mahajot raised during its election campaign was its opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA), proposing an increase in wages for tea garden labourers, providing free electricity up to 200 units and creating five lakh jobs. The BJP led alliance mainly resorted to repeating the successes of their various schemes. However, in many instances, BJP leaders also tried to bring in the issue of safeguarding “our culture”.
‘Fighting the Mughals’ and ‘saving the identity and culture of the land’ were some of the phrases that some BJP leaders used before and during the election. Employment generation was not a major election issue for the party.
Ripun Bora, president of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee, was active during the entire process beginning from the formation of the Mahajot and until polling was over. He said that the alliance was ready and foresees a good result. “Mahajot reflects the aspirations of people, whether it is the removal of the CAA, increase in wages, or employment generation. We are united and will remain so. The alliance is prepared,” he told Newsclick over the phone. Commenting on the exit polls he said that there were many instances in the past where these polls were proven wrong. “These polls may be politically motivated,” he claimed.
When asked about the possibility of horse trading as suggested by the local media, Bora said: “There remains an apprehension about horse trading. We have witnessed many such incidents in recent times. However, we are taking extra precautions that no MLA from our party and others in the alliance cause cracks within.”
Central committee member of the CPI(M), Suprakash Talukdar, also believes that the Mahajot was successful in fighting the election as a unit. “In a state like Assam, which is truly multi-ethnic, uniting everyone is a daunting task, but quite necessary. The Mahajot was successful to an extent and it is crucially important it continues to do so,” he said, mentioning that it would be a tight contest.
Commenting on the Mahajot and the issues it raised, Bibek Das of the CPI(ML) said: “The issues that the alliance raised during the campaign are necessary for the democratic ethos. The CAA is a major blow to the Indian Constitution and for the identity of the ethnic groups of Assam as well. BJP’s slogan of safeguarding the culture of the land is not only superficial but also hollow.”
“Looking at the political condition of the state objectively, an alliance of all the non-BJP forces was a compulsion and the grand alliance was a necessary step. This alliance is prepared for a close fight unlike what has been portrayed in the exit polls and it will continue to fight in the future,” he added.