People's Democracy

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


No. 22

May 29, 2011




Congress Victory Surprises One & All


Isfaqur Rehman


IN Assam, the Congress swept the elections to the legislative assembly by winning 78 out of the 126 seats, while the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced complete rout. The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) also improved their tallies and the Trinamul Congress managed to open its account by winning one seat. The Left parties failed to open an account.




Initially, when the campaigns for elections started, a wind of change was blowing. Then, as soon as the fate of the contesting candidates was sealed in the electronic voting machines (EVMs), it was widely predicted that a hung assembly was in the offing. Results of the Assam legislative assembly elections were, however, rather unexpected. The number of seats the Congress won surprised even the diehard Congressmen. Here the Congress was expecting to improve over its 2006 performance of 53 seats and was yet looking out for coalition partners. But finally, when the results were declared, the writing on the wall was clear — the Congress won an absolute majority in the 126 member state assembly by winning 78 seats. This is much above the majority mark of 64 in the assembly. Despite winning a majority, however, the Congress is likely to form the next government with its coalition partner --- the BPF led by Hagrama Mohilary. The BPF managed to keep its hold on the Bodo heartland and improved its tally by winning 12 seats. Although the BPF was a coalition partner, it had had no pre-poll alliance with the Congress.


The main opposition, the AGP which ruled Assam twice in the past, was nearly wiped out in the 2011 battle of ballots. The regional party faced a humiliating defeat and managed to win only 10 seats — down from 24 in the 2006 elections. This despite its relentless campaign to oust the Congress from power by forging a “grand alliance” of all opposition parties. Questions have now arisen over whether the AGP would be able to withstand the humiliating defeat. Its president Chandra Mohan Patowary and former president Brindaban Goswami, were among the top losers from the party, which has been in the wilderness since 2001. The AGP leadership was shocked by the result and just could not believe the verdict.


The fate of the BJP is also similar as the party failed to reach its 2006 tally of 10 seats and had to be content with only 5. The AIUDF, led by Badruddin Ajmal, managed to win 18 seats and emerged as the largest opposition party in the assembly. However, there will be no leader of opposition in the state assembly this time since it requires a minimum of 21 seats to get the post. Ajmal’s dream to become a kingmaker and to be a part of the new government was also shattered with the Congress’s absolute majority win and the AGP’s dismal performance. The Congress has already reached a position to be able to form the government on its own. The combined strength of the Congress with its ally, the BPF, is now 90 in the 126-member house.


The Left parties had reasons to expect a better performance in the elections. But the results belied all expectations. The Left, including the CPI(M), could not win any seat. In the last assembly, the CPI(M) had two representatives and the CPI one. This time, there will be no representative from the Left inside the assembly.




In terms of percentage of votes, the Congress got 39.38 per cent votes (contesting all 126 seats) followed by the AGP — 16.30 per cent (contesting 104 seats), AIUDF — 12.58 per cent (contesting 78 seats), BJP — 11.46 per cent (123 seats) and the BPF — 6.14 per cent (29 seats). Among the Left, the CPI(M) secured 1.13 per cent (contesting 17 seats), CPI — 0.52 per cent (16 seats) and the CPI(ML) 0.18 per cent (contesting 8 seats). Significantly, in 2006, the Congress had secured 31.07 per cent of votes while the AGP had received 20.39 per cent, BJP 11.98 per cent and the AIUDF 9.02 per cent.


Significantly and also surprisingly, the regional AGP has failed to win even a single seat in 21 out of the total 27 districts and its representation has been limited to the districts of Nagaon, Lakhimpur, Bongaigaon, Hailakandi, Sonitpur and Udalguri. Of the 24 sitting AGP MLAs, only four could win from the constituencies of Bongaigaon, Sootea, Barhampur and Kaliabor. The other six winners of the party were from North Abhayapuri, Biswanath, Kalaigaon, Lakhimpur, Dhakuakhana and Algapur. Similarly, the BJP too failed to win even a single seat from 23 districts. The five seats of the BJP are confined in four districts only — one elected representative each from the districts of Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Kamrup, and two from Barpeta. The BJP has completely been wiped out in the three Barak Valley districts of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj, where the party had its strongholds. The state president of the BJP, Ranjit Dutta, too had to face a humiliating defeat. Out of the 10 constituencies where the BJP won in the 2006 elections, only one it could retain. It lost the other 9 seats. This time, the BJP won in Sorbhog and Patacharkuchi seats in Barpeta district, Kamalpur in Kamrup, Dumdooma in Tinsukia and Dibrugarh seat in Dibrugarh district.


The 10 seats won by the AIUDF in 2006 came from the Barak Valley (3 seats) and from Brahmaputra valley (7 seats) — from the districts of Nagaon (4 seats) and Dhubri (3 seats). This time, the party extended its influence to the lower Assam districts of Barpeta, Goalpara and Kamrup. In Barpeta district, the AIUDF wrested five seats from the Congress and the AGP. The party also wrested the Boko seat in Kamrup district from the AGP. In Goalpara district, the party won three out of the four seats. The AIUDF has a strong presence among the immigrant Muslim settlers in the state.


The Congress performed beyond expectations all over the state including the Barak Valley where the BJP lost its stronghold. The party also did well in the Hill districts of North-Cachar and Karbi Anglong. The Congress gained among the indigenous population and retained its hold over the tea garden population. The “peace and development” slogan of the ruling Congress has contributed greatly to the overwhelming victory of the party in Assam. Apart from the “peace, development and stability,” political observers feel the initiation of the peace dialogue with the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) also contributed to a large extent. The Congress under Tarun Gogoi’s leadership had come to power in 2001 with 71 seats, by defeating the AGP. Gogoi led the Congress to a second term in 2006, but managed just 53 seats. He was forced to go in for a coalition ministry sharing power with the BPF. “In 2006, we took a number of welfare and development schemes. This time, these schemes have been implemented and development has become visible,” claimed Gogoi. Regarding corruption, especially the multi-crore NC Hills fund scam that rocked his government, Gogoi felt appropriate damage control steps at the right time salvaged the situation.




The final outcome of the election results meant a great setback to the Left parties. The two Left parties — the CPI(M) and the CPI  — drew a blank this time. In 2006, the CPI(M) had won two seats (Sorbhog and Rangia) and the CPI one (the Nazira seat).


The CPI(M), in its state committee meeting held on May 17-18, made a preliminary review of the election results. It has further decided to identify its weaknesses and shortcomings and to make a detailed review from the lower levels. In its preliminary review, the CPI(M) pointed out that the sitting Sorbhog seat was wrested by the BJP. The party got only 20,609 votes while the BJP managed to secure 40,716 votes. There has been a significant erosion of votes and the party candidate secured fourth position. The Rangia seat too was captured by the Congress. The CPI(M) candidate got 23,274 votes while the Congress got 34,197 votes. The party came third in the Rangia seat. In the Sootia constituency in Sonitpur district, the party candidate could secure 32,341 votes and came second. The AGP retained the seat with a victory margin of 12,737 votes. In Bijni constituency, the CPI(M) candidate secured 22,151 votes and came third. The Bijni seat was retained by the BPF candidate who secured 39,861 votes. In the other constituencies where the CPI(M) had fielded candidates, the votes polled by the party are shown in the brackets: Sadiya (4,116), Naharkatia (2,669), Dhakuakhana (2,033), Hojai (1,577), Rangapara (7,795), Dhekiajuli (1,903), Nalbari (4,613), Dispur (3,312), Jania (6,450), Sarukhetri (8,517), Abhayapuri-North (2,844), Silchar (6,163) and Patharkandi (6,234).


In its preliminary review, the CPI(M) state committee stated, “The major factor in the debacle is the weakened strength of the party organisation and non-expansion of the mass organisations and mass activities. There is a big erosion in many constituencies in our support base..... It is also to be noted that simply basing on our own strength, our party cannot win a single seat and therefore the support of other democratic sections is necessary and important.”


There were issues galore for the opposition against the ruling Congress. The galloping rise in the prices of essential commodities, allegations of neck-deep corruption and scandals, the burning problem of unemployment etc cornered the Congress during election campaigns. An anti-incumbency factor was also perceptible. However, the ruling party managed to woo and win the voters by introducing and implementing various welfare schemes and distributing freebies on the eve of the elections. The money-power of the Congress also played a role.


The AGP’s advocacy for a “grand alliance” also confused the voters. The regional party sought to unify all the anti-Congress parties, including the BJP, AIUDF and the Left, and the voters firmly rejected such an unprincipled and opportunistic proposal. The Left parties too flatly rejected the AGP proposal. The division of secular opposition votes has contributed immensely to the landslide victory of the Congress. The CPI(M) state committee, in its report, said, “The division of votes and absence of an alternative for a stable government has also contributed to the victory of the Congress candidates. The slogan of a ‘grand alliance’ mooted by the AGP leadership contributed to the confusion among the people.”




AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mohanta accused the ruling party of manipulating the electronic voting machines (EVMs). State BJP president Ranjit Dutta also expressed doubts about the EVMs. Nine opposition parties — the AGP, AIUDF, Gana Shakti, NCP, CPI(ML), Samajvadi Party, Samata Party, All India Trinamul Congress and the ASDC jointly held a meeting at the AGP headquarters on May 18 last and condemned the use of EVMs in elections. They suspected tempering of the machines by the ruling Congress and decided to organise campaigns against the use of EVMs.


It is also noteworthy that out of the 50 crorepatis who had contested the 2011 assembly polls, 47 have won. Of the crorepatis who won, 31 are from the Congress, six from the AGP, four from the BPF, and one crorepati each from the AIUDF, BJP and Trinamul. Dwipen Pathak, Trinamul’s lone winner (from Hajo constituency), among 107 candidates fielded by the party, is sixth on the list of crorepati victors. He also has the dubious distinction of being the winner with most criminal cases against his name. in fact the 13th Assam assembly will not only have 47 crorepatis but at least 13 MLAs who have criminal records against their names --- as against seven MLAs with criminal cases in 2006.