BJP's 'popularity' up for a test in Assam panchayat polls

Riding on Narendra Modi wave, the BJP had grabbed 60 of the 126 seats in the 2016 Assembly elections.

Published: 03rd December 2018 07:16 PM  |   Last Updated: 03rd December 2018 07:16 PM   |  A+A-

BJP flags

Image for representational purpose only (File | EPS)

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: The popularity of BJP, which heads Assam’s three-party coalition government, will be up for a test during two-phase panchayat elections, the first phase of which will be held on December 5.

Riding on Narendra Modi wave, the BJP had grabbed 60 of the 126 seats in the 2016 Assembly elections. By winning the polls in Assam, the party had virtually opened the gateway to the Northeast as it went on to capture power in several states of the Northeast such as Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura.

However, in the past year or so, the BJP’s image took a beating, particularly in Assam, following the Modi government’s bid to get the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 passed in the Parliament. The Bill seeks to legitimize the stay of non-Muslim immigrants of Bangladesh besides Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Seventy organisations, opposition parties and even Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which is an ally of BJP and constituent in the Sarbananda Sonowal government, stand opposed to the controversial Bill. They say the Assamese identity will be threatened if lakhs of “Hindu Bangladeshis” (read Bengali Hindus) are “dumped” in the state through the Bill’s passage. 

The panchayat elections are being held amidst widespread protests in the state against the Bill. Several organisations have already warned that the BJP will be taught a lesson or two in the polls for going against the wishes of indigenous communities.

Despite being allies, BJP and AGP are fighting the polls separately. Blame it on the straining of ties between the two over the Citizenship Bill. The two of them have been very critical of each other during campaigning in the first phase which ended on Monday.

There are 2,200 Gaon Panchayats in Assam. According to the State Election Commission, altogether 78,571 candidates are contesting for 26,808 seats. Of them, 1,512 are contesting for 420 Zila Parishad member seats, 7,004 for 2,199 Anchalik Panchayat member seats, 7,667 for 2,199 Gaon Panchayat president seats and 62,388 for 21,990 Gaon Panchayat member seats.

Official sources said 734 candidates were declared elected unopposed. A total of 380 were from BJP, 193 from Congress, 28 from AGP, 10 from All India United Democratic Front, one from CPM, five from Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF) and 117 Independents.

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