GUWAHATI: Opposition parties in Assam are working towards forging a 'Grand Alliance' to oust the ruling BJP from power.
Ironing out past differences, Congress and minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) have more or less come together to fight the Assembly elections due early next year. They have appealed to like-minded parties to be a part of the grand alliance.
The Left parties, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), and some smaller regional forces are in the Congress-AIUDF’s scheme of things vis-a-vis the envisaged 'Grand Alliance'.
The BPF is an ally of the BJP and a constituent of the state’s coalition government but their relationship has been on the rocks for the past few months following differences on issues pertaining to the election to the autonomous Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) which administers four districts of lower Assam. The election was deferred due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the BTC is now under Governor’s rule.
“We are open to alliance with like-minded parties, including the AIUDF, which are opposed to the BJP,” Assam Congress chief Ripun Bora had told journalists two days ago.
Given the anti-Bangladeshi public sentiment in the state, the Congress never had an alliance with the AIUDF. In fact, Congress stalwart and three-time former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had once famously said: “Who is Badruddin Ajmal” to belittle him and his party.
Ajmal is a perfume baron and Lok Sabha member who had founded the AIUDF in 2005. He has been leading the party as its president ever since then. Many in Assam view the AIUDF as a party that was floated solely to protect the interests of Muslims with roots in Bangladesh. Ajmal is seen as their messiah.
The BJP has begun targeting the Congress for warming up to the AIUDF. Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma recently said the Congress head office in the state “Rajiv Bhawan” would soon be turned into “Ajmal Bhawan”.
As the Ajmal factor could harm the Congress’ poll prospects in the majority Hindu belt, the grand old party has made it clear that the AIUDF chief will not be appointed as the chief minister if the coalition ends up forming the next government.
But what if the AIUDF wins more seats than that of the Congress? The AIUDF has cleared the air.
“There are no constitutional hurdles in Badruddin Ajmal becoming the chief minister. However, the AIUDF will not project him as the CM candidate,” party spokesman Aminul Islam said.
He added: “Ahead of every election, the BJP brands Ajmal as a Bangladeshi, Islamic fundamentalist and an agent of ISI (Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence). So, we have made it known to the Congress that he is not in the race for the CM post”.
The BJP, together with allies BPF and Asom Gana Parishad, had ended the 15-year Congress rule in 2016.