As the BJP begins work on its strategy for the Assam Assembly polls, the state unit appears keen on staking claim to some of the seats held by its key alliance partner, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), while its ties are strained with another ally, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF).
The BPF’s only Rajya Sabha member is set to join the BJP and the regional party is engaged in a bitter contest with the saffron party in the forthcoming Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) polls.
Assam’s present political situation was discussed on Friday night at a two-hour meeting attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP president J P Nadda, Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, BJP general secretaries B L Santosh and Dilip Saikia, state BJP chief Ranjit Dass, Assam Minister and North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma among others.
Dass said since the assembly election is just four and half months away, the central and state leadership of the BJP have discussed various aspects of the polls and issues related to the government.
“They also took stock of the organisational issues, the strength of our alliance partners AGP and BPF,” he said.
The state BJP president said that during the meeting, the state leadership has briefed the central leadership that in some of the assembly seats presently held by the AGP, the BJP is growing strong.
The AGP had contested 24 constituencies in 2016 assembly polls in the state and won in 14. The BJP currently has 61 MLAs.
The elections to the 126-member Assam assembly will be held in April-May 2021.
“We have also informed that in some seats, the AGP has become weak and in some seats it is strong.
“In recent panchayat elections, in some of the AGP held assembly seats, the BJP performed better than the AGP. Many BJP candidates won in the panchayat elections in such assembly constituencies which are held by the AGP. So, we have apprised them of our stand,” Dass said.
Asked whether the meeting discussed the continuation of relations with the BPF, Dass said they have informed the BJP’s central leadership that the BPF is losing ground in the BTC area.
“After the BTC polls, we will clear our stand. The BPF will also clear their stand. We have informed the central leadership that the BJP is popular in BTC,” he said.
The BPF had fought in 12 seats in 2016, winning all. The AGP and BPF have three ministers each in the Sonowal government.
Himanta Biswa Sarma also asserted that the BJP is going to capture power at the BTC after the polls in the autonomous body.
“Since we are winning the BTC elections, where is the question of alliance? The BJP will form the government at the BTC,” he said.
The 40-member BTC is an autonomous body created under the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution. Its two-phased elections will be held on December 7 and 10. The BPF, headed by Hagrama Mohilary, has been in power in the BTC for the last 15 years.
Sarma also said that BJP president Nadda has given his approval for the formal joining of the BPF’s lone Rajya Sabha MP Biswajit Daimary into the BJP.
Virtually shutting the doors to the BPF, Sarma said the BJP will contest in all 12 assembly seats, currently held by the Bodo party, in the next year’s assembly polls.
BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary had recently slammed Sarma saying his “bullying attitude” will not be entertained in the BTC region.
Questioning the BJP government, Mohilary said the Centre was supposed to give Rs 1,000 crore to the BTC area, but it got only Rs. 600 crore.
“Once the BTC election is over, we will form the government at BTC, and we will decide with whom we want to be with,” he had said.
Dass said the BJP central leadership will talk to the leadership of the AGP and the BPF and take a final decision on the future of the alliance.
He said BJP president Nadda will visit Assam on November 26-27 and hold virtual election meetings with party booth workers, MLAs, ministers, MPs, office bearers, district presidents and social media workers on the preparation for the assembly elections.
Sources said Union Home Minister Amit Shah is also likely to visit Assam on November 28 and interact with party workers.
Speculation is rife in Assam that the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL), another Bodo group, may join the BJP-led alliance after the BTC polls.
Asked for his comments, UPPL leader and former Rajya Sabha MP, U G Brahma, said: “Right now our priority is the BTC elections, which we will win. We don”t know about the future.”
The UPPL is fighting in all 40 seats in the BTC. PTI