Assam Bye Elections: Tarun Gogoi crashes Cong cart, AIUDF wins 1, BJP 3 seats

Guwahati, 25th October, 2019: On October 21, bye elections were held in four constituencies in Assam. When results came out on October 24, Congress lost the only seat of the four that it had held. It appears this may have been due to some ill-advised statements by former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.  

Assam bye elections
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The ruling BJP meanwhile retained Ratabari of Barrak Valley, Sonari of upper Assam and Rangapara of Northern Assam. But, in the only the minority dominated constituency, where bye-election was held, AIUDF wrested the seat from Congress with a formidable margin. Blame is now being assigned for this huge embarrassment and many believe it lies squarely with Tarun Gogoi.

Just after publication of final NRC, Gogoi had said, “The updated NRC neither satisfied the Minority or Majority people… It is just like a waste paper.” On another occasion he said, “A huge number of Indian citizens have been excluded and many foreigners has been included in updated NRC. So, Congress will reject the NRC, if it comes to power.” These statements were perceived by many political watchers as untimely, unfair and immature. Neither the majority nor the minority communities could accept such statements. In fact minority populations were looking at the NRC as a solution for long standing jibes about being foreigners and hoped the NRC would settle the issue once and for all in Assam.

How BJP and AIUDF won the bye-election
In Ratabari Assembly constituency, BJP candidate Bijoy Malakar polled 68,416 votes against Congress Candidate Keshab Prashad Rajak. The Congress candidate polled 44,450 votes. In this situation BJP defeated Congress candidate by a margin of 23,982 votes. In 2016 Assembly election, in Ratabari Congress polled 29,449, BJP 53,975 and AIUDF polled 23,966 votes respectively. This time perfume merchant Badaruddin Azmal led AIUDF skipped off from contesting in Ratabari and such the party’s Muslim votes, which it polled in 2016 was equally divided between Congress and BJP. Thus, Congress could increase its votes by 15,000 and BJP increased its vote by 14,500 from their previous tally.

In Rangapara Assembly constituency of Northern Assam, the BJP candidate Rajen Borthakur defeated his opponent Congress candidate by a huge margin of 49,547 votes. The BJP candidate polled 78,235 votes against his Congress rival Kartik Kurmi’s 28,688 vote. In this bye-election CPI(M) candidate and eminent Trade Union leader Royel Soreng polled 5,899 Votes. In the Assembly election of 2016, BJP polled 51,597, AIUDF 13,281, Congress 28,606 and CPI(M) got 8,033 votes respectively. The tea tribes dominated constituency was a Congress bastion till 2006. In this bye-election, a portion of voters from tea Tribes and Bengali Hindus, returned to Congress fold, but the Muslim minority voters who voted for AIUDF and even the Congress in 2016, voted for BJP en masse.

In Sonari Assembly Constituency of upper Assam, BJP candidate Nabanita Handique defeated Congress Candidate Sushil Kumar Suri by a comfortable margin of 15,332 votes. The BJP polled 66,449 votes against 51,117 votes polled by Congress. But, it is matter of fact that, Sonari is the lone constituency where Muslim voters are minority with only four percent, where not only the margin of votes between BJP and Congress decreased, but the total votes of Congress increased and total votes of BJP decreased substantially from 2016. In 2016, the BJP candidate Tapan Kumar Gogoi polled 73,327 votes against Congress veteran Sarat Barkataky’s tally of 49,210 votes. It seems that in a straight contest between Congress and BJP total number of vote of Congress increased by only 2000 at a time when total number of vote of BJP decreased by about 7000. It is due to simple displeasure of voters with BJP. Due to this reason, the difference of vote between Congress and BJP decreased to 15,332 in this bye-election from 24,000 of 2016 Assembly election and 26,000 in respect of 2019 General election in Sonari Constituency under Jorhat Parliamentary constituency. At a time when, voters are feeling discomfort with BJP, the Congress leadership failed to return back them to Congress fold. So, the number of abstainee voters, as well as vote of NOTA increased in Sonari constituency.

The major jolt for Congress in this bye-election was the lone minority dominated seat went on poll is Jania in lower Assam. The Jania Assembly was once represented by former President of India, Mr Fakharuddin Ali Ahmed, former Deputy Speaker of Assam Legislative Assembly became epicentre of minority politics in Assam since 1985. The constituency was represented by legendry Minority leader, former Minister of Assam and former Member of Parliament A F Golam Osmani. The then United Minority Front (UMF), the first minority based political party in Assam, represented the constituency in consecutive third term from 1985-2001. In 2001, the sitting UMF MLA, Ashahaque Ali joined Congress and won for the second term in a Congress ticket in 2001. In 2006, the constituency was retained by Congress nominee Abdul Khaeque by a narrow margin of just 25 votes defeating his nearest rival and another newly born pro-minority Political Party AIUDF candidate Mujibur Rahman. But, in 2011, the constituency was retained by AIUDF, defeating Congress nominee Abdul Khaleque. In 2016, Congress Candidate Abdul Khaleque once again retained the seat, defeating sitting MLA and AIUDF candidate Hafiz Rafiqul Islam by a huge margin of about 29,000 votes. After three years, Congress nominee Abdul Khaleque and AIUDF candidate Hafiz Rafiqul Islam, again came face to face fight for the Barpeta parliamentary constituency election in April, 2019, when Congress candidate defeated the AIUDF nominee in Jania Assembly constituency by huge margin of about 40,000 votes and elected to parliament. In 2016, Congress polled 86,930 votes, BJP 6,067, AIUDF 57,194 and the CPI(M) polled just 1,976 votes in Jania Assembly constituency. But, in the bye-election, the result became just a reverse. The AIUDF candidate Hafiz Rafiqul Islam polled 81,764 votes against his nearest Congress rival and former President of All Assam Minority Student’s Union (AAMSU) Samsul Haque polled just 46,634 votes. Surprisingly enough that the BJP candidate Towfiqur Rahman polled 15,348 votes in the constituency dominated by 94% Muslim minority voters. The BJP candidate, an arch critics of Neo-Assamese Muslim and his party taking all policy decision against Muslim successed in harvesting more then two third of Muslim votes of the total number of votes it polled.

How the arithmetic works:
The BJP won the election in a very calculated way. In Jania alone, the BJP has enrolled more than 35,000 members in last three years, though the Government and the party in power, using hate speeches against this group of people. Upward from NRC to eviction and some Government policy decision, the main target of BJP is Neo-Assamese Muslim for polarisation politics of BJP. But, in certain aspects, the BJP, using its power, trying to find some young and educated people from this group and giving them some opportunity to engage themselves in some developmental work, where its own people can’t reach. In certain areas, the BJP and Sangh Pariwar are recruiting some educated Muslim youth and spending huge amounts of money to spread anger against progressive and democratic forces raising some basic issues of Muslims. They are looks like friends of Muslim society but their main objective is to alienate the Muslim people from mainstream of the society and more vigorously eliminate all progressive and democratic forces from the Muslim society. The way of their work is to either communalise the Muslim society or disconnect them form all democratic, progressive or rational forces. When these people lose all trust in left, democratic, progressive and secular forces, they motivate them to connect them with the party in power, irrespective of its ideology. This strategy appears to have worked in this bye-election in Assam at a time BJP is marginally losing its influence among its traditional vote bank.



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