Assam goes to polls along with three other states in April-May this year with Tamil Nadu, Kerala and West Bengal. Politicalbaaba (PB) will cover the elections in detail with analysis / insights / reports on these state elections. I must admit on the outset that I have limited on the ground contact in these four states as compared to others states. So pour in your suggestions and feedback on news, trends, gupshup etc.

The state has 126 assembly constituencies, 108 in general category and 18 reserved for SC /ST category. In the last assembly polls turnout was pretty high at 75.9%.

14% of Assamese population lives in urban areas. Out of this 25% live in Guwahati alone. In 6 districts urban population is greater than 15% of total population.

There are 5 parties in Assam with decent presence. All of them have pockets of influence – Congress (secular), BJP (Hindus across ethnic groups), AIUDF (minority), BOPF (Bodoland), AGP (traditional vote bank because party formed govt. twice in the past). All these four parties will be targeting the anti-Congress vote.

The Congress has been ruling the state for the past 14 years since 2001 with Tarun Gogoi as the Chief Minister. In 2011 elections, party bagged 78 seats with 39.4% vote share. BJP won 5 seats with 11.5% vote share. There are 3 regional parties which are pretty strong – Assam Gana Parishad (10 seats / 16.3% VS), AIUDF (18 seats / 12.6% VS) and BOPF (12 seats, 6.1% VS). AGP has been weakened lately with many desertions to BJP over the years including the current BJP State President Sarbananda Sonowal.

AGP the main opposition party till a few years ago, has been seriously weakened by the exit of tall leaders unhappy with PK Mahanta’s indecisiveness to ally with BJP. The party finished 2nd in 38 seats and 3rd in 23 seats in 2011.

AIUDF is mainly a minority community party. 16/18 MLAs are from the community. They have pockets of influence in seats where community has decent population. AIUDF finished 2nd in 14 seats and 3rd in 16 seats in 2011 assembly polls. Muslims comprise of 30.9% of state population while being in majority in 6 / 27 districts. They’re believed to influence results of 60 / 126 seats.

BOPF has pockets of influence in the 4 districts of the proposed Bodo state. The party finished 2nd in 1 seat and 3rd in 5 seats. It was part of UPA but recently broke away.

65 / 126 seats witnessed close contest where the victory margin was less than votes secured by candidate finishing 3rd. This is not the correct measure in contests where the contest is four cornered. 25 seats were decided on victory margins of less than 3,000 votes.

 Seats of last 5 elections 

Parties 1991 1996 2001 2006 2011
CONGRESS 66 34 71 53 78
BJP 10 4 8 10 5
AIUDF 10 18
AGP 19 59 20 24 10
OTHERS/IND 31 25 27 29 3
BOPF 12
Total 126 122 126 126 126

Vote share of last 5 elections

Parties 1991 1996 2001 2006 2011
CONGRESS 29.4% 30.6% 39.8% 31.1% 39.4%
BJP 6.6% 10.4% 9.3% 12.0% 11.5%
AIUDF 9.0% 12.6%
AGP Bodoland 17.9% 29.7% 20.0% 20.4% 16.3%
OTHERS/IND 46.1% 29.3% 30.9% 27.5% 14.1%
BOPF 6.1%

However, 2011 doesn’t reflect the new political dynamics in the state – rise of BJP / AIUDF, fall of AGP, separation of BOPF from Congress.

In 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP won 7 / 14 seats with 36.9% vote share. BJP finished 2nd in 5 seats & 3rd in 1 seat. Congress was reduced to 3 seats with 29.9% vote share. Congress finished 2nd in 8 seats and 3rd in 3 seats. AIUDF managed to win 3 seats with 15% vote share essentially denting Congress minority vote bank. AGP finished poorly with 3.9% vote share, decline of >10%. It was not even 2nd in any seat.

In terms of assembly segments, BJP was leading in 69 (5 seats more than simple majority), AIUDF in 24, Congress in 23 seats, Independents in 9 and BOPF in 1 seat.

Seats and vote share of Lok Sabha 2014

Parties

Seats Won

Vote Share

Assembly Leads

CONGRESS

3

29.9%

23

BJP

7

36.9%

69

AIUDF

3

15.0%

24

INDEPENDENTS

1

9.6%

9

BOPF

0

2.2%

1

In municipal elections held last year after Lok Sabha polls, BJP won 38 / 74 town committees and municipal boards.

The strong performance in 2014 Lok Sabha and following municipal polls brings BJP to a reckoning position in Assam. 60%+ Hindus (both Bengali speaking as well as Assamese speaking who once constituted Assam Gana Parishad’s backbone and account for 61% of state population) voted for the BJP due to its consistent stand against the Bangladeshi Muslim immigrants.

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The 15 year old Gogoi government will have to handle serious anti-incumbency (as did the Maharashtra and Haryana Congress regimes of 15 years and 10 years respectively). He is already juggling with rebellion amongst party members for some years culminating in the exit of Himanta Biswa Sarma with 9 MLAs to BJP in August 2015.

To halt BJP’s march Congress tried to form a Maha Gathbandhan of sorts on the lines of Bihar. It tried to pact a deal with AIUDF and could have posed a serious challenge to BJP in its bid for power. Combined they enjoy a vote share of 44.9% (+8% lead over BJP). Muslims account for 34% of state population and 81% voted for Congress (42%) and AIUDF (39%) fighting separately in LS polls. The alliance has not yet materialized with AIUDF demanding 60 odd seats while Congress willing to give only 40 odd seats to AIUDF. AGP was also supposed to be in the alliance but talks have been halted.

BJP on the other hand has already sealed an alliance with Bodoland’s Peoples Front. Prodyut Bora’s (ex-BJP) Liberal Democratic Party is also making its debut and targeting the youth voters.

The elections could witness significant polarization – counter polarization amongst the two communities if AIUDF manages to form a front with Congress (nothing is impossible and they may still strike a deal).

Others / Independents garnered 12% vote share in 2014 Lok Sabha. In 22 assembly segments, a single independent candidate got more than 5% vote share. This implies there is space for a new party like LDP in these seats depending upon correct selection of local candidates.

Can BJP riding on its Lok Sabha / Municipal polls performance form government in the state and make its entry in the North East? Can it take advantage of the anti-incumbency over the 15 year rule of Gogoi? Can Congress and AIUDF sort their differences in the name of secularism and pose a challenge to BJP? Can BJP’s relatively weak organizational presence in the state and hence lack of suitable candidates for all seats hurt its prospects?

All this and more we will see in the coming posts. Stay tuned….

 

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