Assam Mahajot: Hotchpotch alliance with contrasting ideologies and no CM face

Express News Service
GUWAHATI: The hotchpotch alliance of 10 Assam Opposition parties with contrasting ideologies which also had no chief ministerial face found few takers in the polls.

The “Mahajot”, formed two months ago to oust the BJP from power, was led by the Congress but it has been faced with a leadership crisis and plagued by factionalism ever since the death of former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. 

The Congress and the minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had come together to thwart the split of anti-BJP and anti-Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) votes. In the 2016 elections, their combined vote share was more than that of the winning candidates from the BJP-led alliance in 14 seats.

If the move reaped dividends for the alliance in some seats of Bengali Muslim-majority Central and Lower Assam besides Barak Valley, it cost the Congress dear in the Assamese-majority Upper Assam. In a state where there is a threat to the local civilisation due to illegal migration from Bangladesh, the voters in Upper Assam were upset that the Congress had aligned with the AIUDF, perceived to be the protector of the illegal immigrants.

“The alliance with the AIUDF has affected us greatly in Upper Assam,” a Congress insider told The New Indian Express. 

Outlining the other reasons behind defeat, he said the Congress had a leadership vacuum after Gogoi’s death. 

“Nobody respected any leader. The people too did not accept the leadership of Pradesh Congress chief Ripun Bora. As we did not have a CM face, people were confused,” he said. 

The Congress insider admitted that the two new parties, Raijor Dal and Asom Jatiya Parishad, had caused a split of the anti-BJP and anti-AGP votes in several seats of Upper Assam, thereby greatly affecting the Congress.

“The anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) votes went to several Opposition parties. As such, we were on the losing side,” he added.

The Congress had announced five-star “guarantees” including “’nullifying” CAA in Assam, providing five lakh government jobs to youth over a period of five years, 200 units of free electricity per household, raising tea garden workers’ daily wage to Rs 365 from existing Rs 167 and Rs 2,000 monthly income support to all housewives. However, not many voters believed the party could fulfil the promises.

The Congress had, apparently, also over-estimated or miscalculated the anti-CAA public sentiments. Even as it campaigned aggressively on the issue, several leaders of the anti-CAA movement had joined the BJP. The movement had died an early death due to the pandemic.

The voters could not trust the Congress also due to the fact that the 15-year party rule under Gogoi was marked by large-scale corruption and dissidence. In sharp contrast, the BJP-led government had gone for the jugular of the corrupt. It did not spare even the children of lawmakers while cleansing the Assam Public Service Commission which had earned notoriety due to a cash-for-jobs scam.