It is test by fire for the Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi who has become synonymous with the Congress in the State as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) makes a determined bid to unsettle the grand old party from its bastion in the five Lok Sabha constituencies which go to polls on Monday.
The BJP appears to have pushed the once strong Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a party which at its peak was the symbol of aspirations of Assamese, into a corner making the contest a direct fight with the Congress.
New vigour in BJP
Sustained projection of its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi as a leader who can deliver has helped infuse new vigour among the rank and file of the BJP. The moot question is whether this apparent surge is enough to dislodge the Congress from the tea belt in which theplantation workers have overwhelmingly sided with it.
This is perhaps what explains the claim of Mr. Gogoi that his party would win all the five seats of Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Kaliabor and Tezpur. Of these five seats, in the 2009 general election the Congress won four seats — Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Jorhat, Kaliabor — while the AGP which contested the election in alliance with the BJP bagged the Tezpur seat.
For the BJP, victory, even a solitary one, could be a bonus as the all four seats it won in the State in 2009 came from the rest of the nine Lok Sabha seats where polling was scheduled in the second and the third phase.
In 2009 the AGP and the BJP had pre-poll alliance under which the AGP contested in Dibrugarh, Lakhimpur, Kaliabor and Tezpur while the BJP contested only in Jorhat. In 2004 Lok Sabha polls when the AGP and BJP did not have an alliance, the BJP came third in all the five seats, the AGP won two—Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur — and came second in two seats—Tezpur and Kaliabor while the CPI came second in Jorhat.
In the current election too, the AGP and BJP are pitted against each other in all the five seats.