Ahead of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, Opposition parties in Assam pin hope on All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) adviser Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya.
On a rain-soaked last Wednesday, three press conferences held at a distance of 500 meters.
None of them was announcing earth shattering. But it only reconfirms the general impression that it will be an easy walk for BJP in Assam in the next Lok Sabha Election.
Because the first two announced that they would fight the Lok Sabha election solo and the third one pins hope on a reclusive leader to lead a combined opposition to stop the BJP juggernaut. Interestingly, most of the states think the reclusive leader as the best bet to lead the state in this crucial point of time.
The first press conference was addressed by the Asom Gana Parishad(AGP) and the second one was by Pravajan Borodhi Manch(PVM), a platform against immigration, and the third one by a party less veteran politician Kirip Chalha.
These three press conferences symbolize Assam as on today. The AGP is a shadow of themselves trying to survive somehow with a clear intention of going back to BJP fold through the nearest possible gate while an upstart like PVM does not even bother to have any alliance with anyone and announced poll participation. On the other hand, Kirip Chaliha wants Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharrya to lead Assam.
In the other corner of the city, in the BJP state headquarters, the party president Ranjeet Dass over a cup of red tea and his favourities ‘S biscuit’ did not bother to even hide his glee at the turn of the events.
“Let all of you screw us now, we will sweep the poll in Assam,” he said triumphantly, something most political observers do not like to disagree as the turn of events following the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).
Notably, Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharrya, the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) adviser, is fast emerging as a rallying point for Opposition unity to take on the BJP in Assam but the man himself is not interested to plunge into politics.
Assam is divided into two half, pro and anti-CAB and at this moment, the political weight of the first one is heavier although the second one is numerically bigger.
As the fast realization has dawned that anti-BJP forces are hopelessly out of position to take on the juggernaut of the BJP in Assam despite the strong anti CAB forces, there is an attempt to prop up Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya as a consensus rallying point.
As the chorus for his leadership has started to unroll from all quarters of the Opposition, the man in question has maintained his traditional position of staying away from the political circle.
“You know my declared position. I shall stay away from the political arc,” said Dr Bhattacharya emphatically.
In fact, the very attempt to get Dr Bhattacharrya in the political arena to take on the BJP only reaffirms the suspicion that it is a one-way race in Assam in the Lok Sabha Election.
The Congress has hardly been seen as a viable entity for the anti-CAB camp which also sees Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) as a traitor. In fact, the AGP is clawing back to the BJP after a face-saving separation till the Lok Sabha election.
But the man of the moment is Conrad Sangma, Meghalaya chief minister. If someone has benefitted out of the CAB imbroglio, he is the Meghalaya chief minister. He has emerged as the most acceptable regional leader with a strong anti-CAB stand and yet he is very much in the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) and again in a position to topple both Nagaland and Manipur government.
No one can match Conrad Sangma’s hold over the north eastern region at this moment, not even mighty Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma. The latter is a proven mass leader and great political tactician but he is central to the BJP’s scheme of things and that does not enjoy the freedom he wishes, something Conrad Sangma has been enjoying at the moment.
This is quite evident from Dr Sharna’s mouth only. “Conrad Sangma met me and urged us to reconsider the decision on the alliance with the AGP. I said to him that at this moment our state party president’s stand remains in effect and high command will take a final call in this regard,” he said.
In one stroke, Dr Hianta Biswa Sharma revealed at least three pints. Firstly, AGP is keen to come back and Conrad is the go-between. Secondly, Conrad is very much in the BJP-NEDA alliance and he will continue to do so. Thirdly, Conrad is now the accepted face of the non-BJP but pro-BJP political parties of the region.
The AGP’s interest in rejoining the BJP-led alliance is very much evident from the party leadership’s action. With CAB cloud is gone and unlikely to come back till the next government takes shape, the AGP thinks it has no problem in joining back the alliance.
“That is the mood of the seniors. It is only the middle ranking leaderships are opposing this. As a result, there are some frictions but top leaderships are just looking for an opportunity to go back,” said a general secretary of the party.
For the record, the AGP halted that temptation of going to BJP till Lok Sabha election and as per the total political plan will help the BJP by dividing the anti CAB vote.
That is the reason why the anti-CAB forces desperately need a strong pivotal Opposition leader and arguably the most acceptable face of Assam is Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharya.
“There are plenty of leaders who have gone out of the AASU and joined many political parties. But I am against this and I want to be the symbol of the resistance, so my going to the political arena cannot be raised. Shall serve people of Assam from the platform of the AASU only,” said Dr Bhattacharya.
His words are almost prophetic as over the past three decades the AASU has emerged as a reliable factory of manufacturing political leaders for every political party of Assam.
The Congress, after the 2016 decimation, is trying to get up but they have realized well that in the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies their chance is not more than four seats, as the BJP has thrown the long rope making a watertight alliance with the tribal political parties and the Re 1 rice and 1 tola gold for poor girl is going to be game changer amongst the masses.
“You can beat us now but we will get the garlands,” said BJP party president Ranjeet Dass, confident that they would retain seven seats and add Diphu and Silchar easily before trying to wrest Koliabor from Congress and Barpeta from AIUDF.
The BJP is sounding supremely confident and they have reasons to as they have solidified their base right up to the booth committees.
As the BJP is all out to finish the smaller regional Opposition parties, Conrad is making a desperate attempt to make inroads into Assam politics. He is bound to taste the water in this Lok Sabha election as anti-AGP, anti-BJP, anti-Congress elements are veering around Conrad Sangma, who in turn trying to prop up Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharrya as their leader.
A rainbow Opposition led by Dr Bhattacharya and Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma against the BJP is the most likely consensus fast emerging in Assam, but no one is able to convince Dr Bhattacharya and hence public pressure is being mounted through political statements, press conferences and TV appeals.
The Conrad Sangma-led National Political Party (NPP) is taking its wings in Assam with some anti CAB leaders who are no longer in any party like Israel Nanda, HoliramTerang, Dilip Bora and Manjit Mahanta.
Meanwhile, Congress has started the candidate selection process and while Badaruddin Ajmal sent music to BJP’s ears by announcing that seven Lok Sabha constituencies would be contested by his party.
The BJP is ensuring that anti-CAB front is divided and hence they are very happy to see AGP, AIUDF, NPP, KMSS and now Pravajan Virodhi Manch of Upamanyu Hazarika entering the Lok Sabha bandwagon.
The presence of so many Opposition entities is bound to help the BJP unless Dr Bhattacharya changes his proclaimed decision and take a lead against the BJP so that all smaller entities could stand behind him.
( Author is a senior journalist and writer. Views expressed are his own)