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Assam: Opposition Parties Join Hands to Oust BJP in 2024 General Elections

“Need to intensify movements and ground activities to make it a real Success,” Says Ajit Bhuyan; Regional Parties also join the Mahajot.
Opposition Unity in Assam: Nine Opposition Parties Join Hands to Oust BJP in 2024 General Elections

Image Courtesy: PTI

Guwahati: In a recently concluded meeting held at Hotel Lily in Guwahati, nine opposition parties resolved to unite ahead of the forthcoming elections, especially the 2024 general elections. The Mahajot (Grand Alliance) was initiated by Congress and was attended by regional parties Asam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) Jatiya Dal Assam and Raijor Dal (RD), along with three left parties—Communist Party of India (CPI), Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M), Communist Party of India (Marxist- Leninist) Liberation (CPI(ML) and other national parties like Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and LDP. 

The initiative has been seen as a welcome step forward. Especially, if we look at the last assembly election results where the failure of unity of the opposition led to a division in votes. This eventually paved the way for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to form the government twice in a row with Himanta Biswa Sarma as the Chief Minister ousting Sarbananda Sonowal. 

Before the 2021 Assembly elections, a similar alliance was formed, sans the regional parties. In that alliance- formed just a few months before the election, regional parties AJP and RD were not involved. Also, a significant part of this time’s alliance is the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) under the leadership of Badaruddin Ajmal has not been included, which was a part of the grand alliance of 2021. 

With a year remaining for the general election, the leaders are hopeful of getting enough time to carry forward the agenda and the campaigns. Nevertheless, there are also concerns. In this time when Assam is laden with so many crucial issues like encounters, wide-scale evictions, torture under the guise of curbing child marriage, skyrocketing prices, and chronic unemployment, will any alliance become successful without intensifying movements and groundwork from now onwards?

NewsClick spoke to Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) since 2020 regarding the alliance and its functioning. Bhuyan has been vocal and active in unifying all the opposition parties since 2021. He told NewsClick, “We must remember the past. Back in 2021, the position had a good chance of forming the government, but the splits of votes and the formation of the alliance just a few months before the election paved the path for BJP. This time we can not afford to repeat it.”

On being asked about the points that the alliance this time needs to focus on henceforth, Bhuyan said, “It is very clear that without intensifying movements and groundworks, the alliance will have a tough time realising its goal. Mere seat-sharing for the elections won’t be enough to register a victory. Unitedly we must strengthen on the ground. The united opposition has to fight against communalism, for restoring democracy and rule of law.”

After 2021, there have been several joint initiatives in which the Left, Congress and the regional parties have participated. Last year, upon Bhuyan’s initiative, there was a joint survey of the government schools in and around Guwahati in which almost all the parties of the new alliance participated. The survey culminated in producing a report signifying the abysmal condition of the schools which was deliberated through a joint press meet. 

Remembering such activities, Suprakash Talukdar, the general secretary of CPI(M) Assam told NewsClick, “During the first phase of evictions at Batadrava in Nagaon district there was a joint memorandum submitted to the governor of Assam.” 

Further, Mr Talukdar mentioned the Railway land privatisation in Guwahati. “In February of 2022, CPI(M) first protested against it in Guwahati, but later on other parties joined in and we also held a joint press conference,” Talukdar said.

Suprakash Talukdar also shares similar thoughts as Ajit Bhuyan regarding the newly formed alliance. “The 2021 assembly election was a great lesson for the opposition. The alliance formed that time was in the nick of time and it failed to go to the ground with the intensity it could have. I hope this time things will be better,” Talukdar said.

“But we must remember that under the current situation in Assam, the alliance has to give a valiant fight in the issues and go to the public. Despite having differences amongst the parties, at least in some issues, the alliance needs to take up the fight jointly,” he added.

Talukdar further said that on April 9, the newly formed alliance has planned a big gathering where all the parties will mobilise people from various parts. “Hopefully a common minimum programme will be adopted with identifying the issues, for which we will have to unite people and bring them to the streets,” Talukdar commented.

NewsClick also spoke to Bibek Das, the state general secretary of CPI(ML). Das commented, “At this time when the ruling party’s activities have become fascistic, struggles remain the only option both inside and outside of the parliament. The new alliance is hope, but without jointly fighting against the current regime, at least on some issues, it will not be that successful.”

Sushanta Talukdar, a veteran journalist in Assam, however, is a little sceptical as an independent observer of the political situation.  He told NewsClick, “Even if an alliance has formed, the parties will retain their differences in ideologies. And it is not even ideology, even on several issues the parties will have differences. Nobody can compromise with their core ideology. So it’s a real challenge to carry forward.”

However, Sushanta Talukdar agreed that there can be some tactical strategies that the alliance can bank upon. “The parties can identify the issues that they can fight against jointly. The most important part is to carry the message of opposition unity to the people. Only then people will look at it with confidence,” he said.

However, the Aam Admi Party (AAP) and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) were not invited to the meeting at Hotel Lily. On this Bhupen Borah said to the press that as these are national parties so there needs to be a consensus at the national level before inviting them to Assam. Borah also said that hopefully they also will participate in future.

The AIUDF has not been included in the alliance. On this, Ajit Bhuyan said, “The recent activities of AIUDF have shown that they are helping the BJP, whether it is in recent RS election or other issues. Back in 2021, it was not like this. I don’t say that AIUDF is as communal as the BJP or it has been ever, but at this moment the party is acting like an agent of the BJP. All the parties have resolved not to include it in the new alliance.”

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