BJP wins majority in Assam, defeats Congress for the first time in 15 years

BJP and its allies on Thursday created history in Assam by defeating the incumbent chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s Congress party who had been in power for 15 years. The BJP alliance secured simple majority by bagging 64 seats in the 126-member Assam Assembly. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also congratulated his party for the victory and said the BJP winning majority and forming government in Assam was "surprising to many people as it was when we shared the power in Jammu and Kashmir". "The poll results have shown that people have accepted the BJP's agenda of development and that they are supporting it," he said.

BJP alone has won 44 seats and is leading in 17 while its allies Asom Gana Parishad won 11 seats and led in three others and Bodo People's Front retained nine seats and was leading in three others.

Congress, which had 68 seats in the outgoing House, managed to win only 21 seats and was leading in just four others.

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

The performance of the main opposition party in the outgoing assembly AIUDF turned out to be poor as it won only nine seats and was leading in four others. Compounding its owes, its chief Badruddin Ajmal lost to Congress candidate Wajed Ali Choudhury in South Salmara.

BJP's chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal won a convincing victory in Majuli (ST) seat and outgoing Congress chief minister Tarun Gogoi did so in Titabor.

BJP's state election convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma, who left Congress to join the saffron party, romped home with a record margin 85,935 votes over Congress candidate Niren Deka.

AGP President Atul Bora won against sitting Congress MLA Arun Phukan by 40,193 votes, while his party colleague and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta defeated his Congress rival Suresh Bora by a margin of 4558 votes in Baharampur.

Prominent winners for Congress were assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi from Sibsagar, Agriculture Minister Rakibul Hussain from Samaguri, Health Minister Nazrul Islam from Laharighat, PWD Minister Ajanta Neog from Golaghat, Minority Development and PHED minister Sukur Ali from Chenga.

In the outgoing Assembly, BJP had six seats, AIUDF 18, BPF 12, AGP nine, Trinamool Congress one and independents two.
Ten seats were vacant with nine Congress MLAs disqualified since 21 December, 2015 after they joined BJP and one Congress MLA resigned on 15 September, 2015 after joining BJP.

As the BJP created history in Assam, it found support in an unexpected ally: the pro-talks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), which said the new government should resolve the state's "identity crisis on a priority basis".

The faction, which is in peace negotiations with the central government since 2010, has also sought that the new government should complete the process of updating the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which it says is "the only feasible solution to the illegal migrants issue, which has led to much bloodshed in the state".

"Among the major expectations are the faster update of the NRC, which makes things clear about who are the illegal migrants in the state. Another expectation is that the government should certainly help in sealing an accord between the ULFA and the Indian government," Sashadhar Chaudhury, a senior cadre of the ULFA faction that favours talks with the government, said..

Referring to the 15 years of Tarun Gogoi-led Congress rule in the state, Chaudhury, who was formerly part of the underground movement, said: "People wanted change and to get rid of the Bangladeshi-based politics in Assam, which the new government should take care of."

The first phase of the ambitious NRC updating process was completed some years ago, and the second one has begun. The process involves upgrading the register of 1951 by enlisting names of "genuine" Indian citizens, one of the key decisions of the tripartite talk among the Centre, the Assam government and All Assam Students Union (AASU) during the signing of Assam Accord in 1985.

"People want a government of our own people, and once the NRC comes, it will segregate the Bangladeshis from Assam," Chaudhury said.
Meanwhile, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday said the party accepts the verdict of the people and it will introspect into the reasons behind its poor showing in the assembly polls.

Sarbananda Sonowal.  Image courtesy: Twitter/@sarbanandasonowal

Sarbananda Sonowal. Image courtesy: Twitter/@sarbanandasonowal

“I thank all the voters who participated in strengthening our democratic process during these elections as also the Congress workers and leaders who worked hard during the campaign,” she added.

“We will introspect into the reasons for our loss and will rededicate ourselves to the service of the people with greater vigour,” she said.

Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh reiterated his stance that Priyanka Gandhi’s entry into politics could energise the Congress rank and file.

"Priyanka is not in politics. If she comes into politics, it will make Congress workers happy," he told reporters.

Singh said the Congress’ performance in the assembly elections in Assam is "saddening". "However, in a democracy, you have to bow before the people's will. The Congress will now work even harder to win the trust of the people," the former Madhya Pradesh chief minister said.

Tarun Gogoi, who won from the Titabor constituency by defeating BJP’s Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, accepted his party’s defeat and said the Congress will play the role of a constructive opposition in the legislative assembly.

"We accept the mandate of the people. I thank the people of Assam for giving us three terms to serve them. Now the people want us to sit in the opposition and play the role of a constructive opposition and I thank the people for that," said Gogoi addressing the media at his official residence at Koinadhara Hills in Guwahati.

"It is only natural to feel bad about the result but I am not depressed. In democracy, one has to accept the verdict of the people and we have accepted that. We are going to try our best to play the role of a constructive opposition," he said.

"I am thankful to the people that they have not abandoned the Congress completely. May be there are some shortcomings on our part or may be that the people have expected more from us than we delivered," he said.

Gogoi said that he had already congratulated Sarbananda Sonowal for the victory. "It is a grand success for them. The BJP, the AGP and the BPF came together this time and won the polls," he said.

Reiterating that he'll still be active in politics, Gogoi said that ups and downs are a part of a politician's life. "I have seen many ups and downs in my life, be it in national politics or in Assam," he added.

The chief minister said the party is going to analyse the loopholes and deficiencies in the party and the factors that led the BJP and its allies to victory.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: May 19, 2016 20:03 PM

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