The current Assam Assembly’s tenure ends on 5 June, 2016 and that’s why the Assembly elections are being conducted in this northeastern state this month. Currently, the Congress holds the majority in the Assembly and Tarun Gogoi is the chief minister. He has been in the post for the past 15 years. However, various opinion polls claim that this time, the Bharatiya Janata Party will win the elections. The verdict will be known on 19 May, when the votes will be counted. Till that happens, here’s what you need to know:
Voting in Assam will take place in two phases – on 4 April and 11 April. The state government has declared that the constituencies will have a holiday on the day they go to polls. Assam has a total of 126 constituencies. A party needs to win 64 seats to prove majority and form the government.
The issue of Bangladeshi immigrants entering Assam is overshadowing all other issues in several constituencies in the state. As Sushanta Talukdar explains in this Firstpost article, this is one of the rare times that a national issue like foreign policy is affecting the Assembly elections of a state. Both the BJP and the Congress are using the issue as a major poll plank. In their attempt to woo voters, both parties are claiming that they will offer refuge to Hindu migrants from Bangladesh. This stepmotherly treatment to Muslim migrants from Bangladesh can end up polarising voters and giving the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), headed by Badruddin Ajmal, a boost. The BJP is so focused on its Hindutva politics that it is fielding its CM candidate Sarbananda Sonowal from Majuli, which is home to Vaishnavite satras, Sanghamitra Baruah points out in this Firstpost article.
Another major issue is that of floods. Every year, the Brahmaputra river overflows and floods the surrounding villages. Severe soil erosion has led to the island of Majuli shrinking in size. Despite promises by the state and central governments, voters say that not much has been done to help the residents, the article states.
The Muslim factor:
Muslims constitute 34 percent of the electorate – the second largest in the country, with only Jammu and Kashmir ahead of it. This proves a challenge for the BJP which has traditionally banked on the Hindu vote to get elected. In Assam, they are feeding into the fear of the Hindu electorate by claiming that Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF has a secret understanding with the Congress, and Ajmal might be made home minister or deputy chief minister if the Congress comes to power. As Sandipan Sharms writes in this Firstpost article, the BJP appears to have found an easy target in Ajmal.
Ratabari, Majbat, Sonari, Patharkandi, Dhekiajuli, Thowra, Karimganj North, Barchalla, Sibsagar, Karimganj South, Tezpur, Bihpuria, Badarpur, Rangapara, Naoboicha, Hailakandi, Sootea, Lakhimpur, Katlichera, Biswanath, Dhakuakhana, Algapur, Behali, Dhemaji, Silchar, Gohpur, Jonai, Sonai, Bokakhat, Moran, Dholai, Sarupathar, Dibrugarh, Udharbond, Golaghat, Lahowal, Lakhipur, Khumtai, Duliajan, Barkhola, Dergaon, Tingkhong, Katigora, Jorhat, Naharkatia, Haflong, Majuli, Chabua, Bokajan, Titabar, Tinsukia, Howraghat, Mariani, Digboi, Diphu, Teok, Margherita, Baithalangso, Amguri, Doom Dooma, Paneri, Nazira, SadiyaUdalguri, Mahmara
Titabar will see a clash of the titans. It’s Tarun Gogoi’s constituency, and the BJP is pitching another heavyweight against him – MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa. Tasa, 40 years old, has the advantage of age against the 79-year-old Gogoi. Titabar is also part of the Jorhat parliamentary constituency, from where Tasa won his Lok Sabha seat. However, Titabar has stayed loyal to Gogoi for 15 years and it is tough to imagine that that loyalty will change this time around.
Sonowal is contesting from Majuli, which is the first time any party has fielded its chief ministerial candidate from this tiny island. The Congress candidate is incumbent Rajib Lochan Pegu, a 55-year-old post graduate in English and former Minister of State (Independent charge), Water Resources and Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes, according to the official Assam Assembly website.
The BJP is fielding 54 candidates while its alliance partner Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has 11 candidates. Congress is fielding 65 candidates and the AIUDF has 27, according to data provided by the election commission.
Mankachar, Patacharkuchi, Barama (ST), Salmara South, Barpeta, Chapaguri(ST), Dhubri, Jania, Kalaigaon, Gauripur, Baghbar, Sipajhar, Golakganj, Sarukhetri, Mangaldoi(SC), Bilasipara West, Chenga, Dalgaon, Bilasipara East, Boko (SC), Jagiroad (SC), Gossaigaon, Chaygaon, Marigaon, Kokrajhar West (ST), Palasbari, Laharighat, Kokrajhar East (ST), Jalukbari, Raha (SC), Sidli (ST), Dispur, Dhing, Bongaigaon, Gauhati East, Batadroba, Bijni, Gauhati West, Rupohihat, Abhayapuri North, Hajo, Nowgong, Abhayapuri South (SC), Kamalpur, Barhampur, Dudhnai (ST), Rangiya, Samaguri, Goalpara East, Tamulpur, Kaliabor, Goalpara West, Nalbari, Jamunamukh, Jaleswar, Barkhetry, Hojai, Sorbhog, Dharmapur, Lumding, Bhabanipur
Badruddin Ajmal is contesting from the Salmara South constituency. The 61-year-old AIUDF chief is replacing incumbent and fellow party leader Abdur Rahman Ajmal. In 2011, Abdur Rahman won the election with Congress’ Wazed Ali Choudhury coming in second, according to elections.in. In the 2009 bypolls, Choudhury had emerged winner and Abdur Rahman second. The 54-year-old Choudhury is the Congress’ candidate this time around too. In fact in 2006, when Ajmal founded the AIUDF, he contested from this seat and defeated Choudhury. Whether history will repeat itself this election remains to be seen. (The BJP however is fielding relative newcomer, 28-year-old Shiraj Hussain. According to elections.in, data available till 1978 shows that BJP has never won this seat.)
The BJP is fielding 35 candidates and its partner AGP 19. Congress is fielding 57 candidates, just 10 more than the AIUDF, according to data from the election commission.