People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)

Vol. XXX

No. 16

April 16, 2006



Bright Chances For A Non-Congress Secular Govt


Isfaqur Rahman


WITH the polling for the two-phased assembly elections in Assam over, it is almost certain that the ruling Congress party might not be able to retain power. Political observers predict a hung assembly and the chances for the installation of a non-Congress secular government have brightened. Tall claims notwithstanding, the BJP may get trounced in these elections.


However, what is sure and certain is that the Left will make an entry into the state assembly this time. In the 2001 elections, the Left Parties drew a blank. This time along with the CPI(M), the CPI and the CPI(ML-Liberation) also have fair chances of entering the assembly. Had there been a Left unity, particularly if the CPI had shown interest towards that, the situation would have been far better for the Left parties.


An estimated 75.68 per cent of Assam’s 1.74 crore strong electorate turned up at polling booths across the 126 constituencies that went to polls on April 3 and 10. Barring stray incidents of violence in some places, the polling was by and large peaceful and incident free.


The Election Commission announced a two-phase election for the state assembly. In both the phases, the people kept the polling spirit up. Altogether 997 candidates are in the fray for the 126 constituencies. The second phase witnessed a voter turn out of 78 per cent, while the overall figure for the assembly polls 2006 has been estimated to be 75.88 per cent. In the first phase, elections were held in 65 constituencies  (515 candidates) while 61 constituencies went to polls (582 candidates) in the final phase. Re-polling has been ordered in 20 stations – only 5 polling stations in the first phase and 15 in the second phase.


In the 2001 elections, 74.83 per cent of the 1,44,39,167 voters exercised their franchise to choose 126 representatives among the 1,019 candidates. The Congress which has assumed power after dethroning the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) under the leadership of Tarun Gogoi, polled 39,75 per cent votes that took 71 of candidates to the assembly.  However, seven more MLAs, including NCP’s three, later joined the Congress taking its tally of legislators to 78. The AGP got 20.02 per cent votes while the BJP secured 9.35 per cent votes. The number of MLAs of the two parties were 20 and eight respectively. The AGP had joined hands with the BJP in the 2001 elections.


In the 1996 elections, the AGP got 29.70 per cent votes after entering into an electoral understanding with the Left parties which resulted in its 59 candidates getting elected to the assembly. It formed an alliance government headed by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. In these elections, the Congress won in 34 seats and got 30.56 per cent votes. The BJP, which had four MLAs secured 10.41 cent votes. The CPI won in three seats while the CPI(M) scored the victory in two. In fact, the strength of the Left parties in Assam assembly was highest in the 1978 elections when 25 members Left block dominated the assembly proceedings after the formation of the first non-Congress Janata Party government headed by Golap Borborah in the post emergency period. The CPI(M) had 11 MLAs plus one independent supported by the party.




‘Peace and development’ has been the main poll plank of various parties in the 2006 elections. Almost all the parties made promises in their respective election manifestos to ensure peace and rapid progress in the state. The major issues before the electorate were – efficient, clean and corruption free administration, employment generation, development of infrastructure and rapid industrialisation, land to the landless, food security and employment opportunity, floods and erosion, agricultural development, ethnic unity and solutions to the problems of extremism and terrorism, public health and education, rights of the employees and working class, communalism etc.


The campaigning was more or less a low-key affair. However, the interest of the common people about the elections was more in the rural areas than in the urban centres. The EC also monitored the entire process and several candidates and their supporters, including some ministers, were issued show-cause notices for violation of the model code of conduct. Extremist outfits like the ULFA kept a low profile and kept up its word of not interfering with the elections.


The highlight of the campaigning this time was the visits by high profile leaders of the national political parties to address public meetings to woo the voters of the state. The Congress president Sonia Gandhi, prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, defence minister Pranab Mukherjee, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Y S Rajsekhar Reddy and other senior leaders of the Congress campaigned for the ruling party, while the general secretary of the AICC in charge of Assam, Digvijay Singh was present in the state all throughout.


The BJP had also taken the state assembly polls seriously and Pramod Mahajan was present all throughout the campaign trail, while other senior leaders campaigned for their candidates. The BJP also roped in cine stars Hema Malini, Smrti Irani etc to woo the voters.


The regional Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) roped in leaders of the Telugu Desam, Samajvadi Party and Akali Dal. TDP president N Chandrababu Naidu, UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, SP leader Amar Singh etc joined the electioneering in Assam in favour of the AGP.


Left leaders also made a beeline to the state, The CPI(M) Polit Bureau members Sitaram Yechury, Brinda Karat and Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar, Party’s central committee members Md Salim and Hannan Mollah, DYFI leaders Tapas Sinha, Tapas Dutta and Kallol Roy, West Bengal minister Ashok Bhattacharyya and others visited Assam and addressed huge meetings at different places of the state.


In fact, the CPI(M) began its campaign in a mammoth state-level rally held at Guwahati Judges’ Field on February 12 before the announcement of poll-schedule in the state. Addressing the huge gathering, the Party general secretary Prakash Karat and Polit Bureau member Biman Basu exhorted the people of Assam to oust the Congress from power and to defeat the communal BJP.




The chief minister Tarun Gogoi who had earlier said they would secure 80 seats, now scaled it down to 64. The ruling Bodoland People’s Progressive Party (BPPF) led by BTC chief Hagrama Mahilary faction has tacit understanding with the Congress although the BPPF (H) announced that they would fight the elections alone and fielded candidates in 18 constituencies. The Congress put the candidates in 120 seats and left 5 seats to the BPPF(H). Now, the Congress is nurturing the hope that with support of the BPPF(H), they will form the next government with comfortable majority. The ruling party has also been eyeing on the support of the newly formed, minority dominated AUDF – a party which locked horns with the Congress in the elections.


The failures of the Congress government on all fronts – its misrule, misdeeds and anti-people policies, massive corruption at the administrative levels, deterioration of law and order situation, high unemployment, misappropriation and diversion of development funds, corruption at panchayat levels etc. – has led to the growing isolation of the Congress party from the people. Various ethnic communities, including the tea-tribes, Koch-Rajbanshis, etc. have also expressed their resentment and discontent against the Congress rule. The minorities, particularly the Muslims, also fell away and displayed their revolt and discontent against the Congress for its failure to protect the rights of the minorities. The striking down of the IMDT Act by the Supreme Court has aggravated the situation. In fact, the AUDF was formed as an expression of protest. The AUDF leadership is dominated by former Congressmen and supporters of the Jamait Ulema-e-Hind. The AUDF took up cudgels against the Congress on the eve of the elections. However the Congress was trying its level best to win over the minorities and other section of the people through various sops and welfare schemes just before the announcement of the elections.


The BJP had to go it alone in these elections and it claimed to be the ‘real alternative’ to the Congress. It was trying to forge alliance with some parties in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) area and some other ethnic groups, but failed. During its election campaigns, the BJP and Sangha Parivar has stepped up its campaign against the Muslim minorities on the issue of infiltration of foreign nationals. It charged the Congress with the policy of appeasement of Muslims. The BJP has fielded candidates in 125 seats. The party might increase its vote-share, but in terms of seats, it will not be easy to increase their tally from the present eight. They may hardly reach the double digit figure.


On the eve of the elections, the regional party, Assam Gana Parishad (AGP)-led by Brindavan Goswami ruled out the possibility of its joining hands with the BJP. It instead preferred a poll pact with the Left and other regional parties, except the breakaway faction of the AGP led by former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and the NCP. Finally, the AGP entered into electoral alliance with the CPI, ASDC (Haliram faction), Rabiram Narzary faction of the BPPF (R), Samajvadi Party and the TGP. The Brindaban Goswami-led AGP also entered into a seat sharing formula with the CPI(M). The AGP fielded candidates in 99 constituencies and the remaining 27 seats have been left to its allies. The CPI has put up candidates in 16 seats although the AGP has left only 7 seats for them.


Like the BJP, the NCP, Prafulla Mahanta-led AGP(P), the AUDF and some minor parties have to fight the battle alone in the absence of any understanding with others. The AGP(P) fielded 90 candidates, the NCP - 44 and the AUDF 66 candidates in the elections. Among the other Left parties, the CPI(ML- Liberation) has fielded 14 candidates while the RSP and FB have put up two candidates each.




The CPI(M) evolved independent electoral tactics and tried its level best for strengthening the Left unity and broadening the common platform of Left, democratic and secular forces. The party also decided not to enter into any ‘alliance’ or ‘Front’ with any party in these elections. Rather, it decided to make broad understanding and adjustment of seats with other Left, democratic and secular parties to ensure the defeat of the Congress and the BJP. The party also underscored the need for strengthening the Left unity in the state. However, the role of the CPI did not help in materialising the Left unity to the extent possible. The CPI(M) entered into seat adjustments with the AGP with the sole purpose of checking the division of anti-Congress and anti-BJP secular votes. As per the understanding with the AGP, the CPI(M) fielded 16 candidates out of which in seven seats the AGP extended full support to the CPI(M) and in the remaining nine seats the AGP was free to field its own candidates.


Of the 16 seats, the party has identified four constituencies  – Sorbhog, Sarukhetri, Rangia and Badarpur – as priority seats. The remaining 12 seats are: Jania, Bijni, Digboi, Naharkatia, DhakuaKhana, Rangapara, Borsola, Paneri, Hajo, Dispur, Silchar, and Katigora. The seven seats in which the AGP did not field their candidates are: Sorbhog, Jania, Bijni, Rangapara, Naharkatia, Badarpur and Silchar.


During the election campaign, the CPI(M) raised the people’s issues and exposed the misdeeds and misrule of the Congress government in Assam. The issues relating to land, food and employment occupied the centre-stage during the electioneering. The peace and unity of Assam and democratic solutions to the problems of various ethnic groups were highlighted. Political solutions to the problems of extremism through peaceful dialogue, massive investment for development of infrastructure and industrialisation, permanent solutions to the problems of flood, strengthening the PDS, public health system, halt to the anarchy in education, granting of ST status to the tea tribes, Koch-Rajbanshis, Chutias, Morans, Matuks, protection of the right of minorities, etc. were the highlights of the CPI(M) campaign.


The entire Party jumped into the political battle. After the polls, it is surely expected that the CPI(M) candidates in Sorbhog and Rangia will emerge victorious. The CPI(M) fielded its state secretary Uddhab Barman in a multi-cornered contest in Sorbhog. The main opponent of Barman is the sitting Congress MLA and former Minister Samsul Haque. At Rangia, the CPI(M) state secretariat member Ananta Deka is locked in a battle against the APCC president and former minister Bhubaneswar Kailta, who is a contender for the post of chief ministership.


Apart from Sorbhog and Rangia, the CPI(M) candidates in five other constituencies have fair chances to win. These constituencies are Sarukhetri (Nizamuddin Khan), Jania (Abdul Karim Bhuyan), Bijni (Gajen Barman), Rangapara (Rabi Tamuli) and Paneri (Prankrishna Das). In all these constituencies, people cutting across various sections unequivocally express confidence about the victory of the CPI(M). During the election campaign, there has been a popular upsurge in favour of the CPI(M) candidates in these constituencies and it was also reflected on the day of polling too.