BJP, allies face vote share challenge in Assam polls

Minus the percentage of votes its former ally BPF garnered, the BJP-led alliance’s 2016 vote share dips by 3.94% to 37.65%

Published - March 08, 2021 02:03 am IST - GUWAHATI

Numbers can be deceiving. But if one goes by the vote share of parties in the 2016 Assembly polls, the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies approach mandate 2021 behind the Congress-led Mahajot or grand alliance.

The BJP had ahead of the three-phase polls announced its “Mission 100”, targeting at least 100 of Assam’s 126 Assembly seats. The party and its two regional allies – the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) – had achieved two more seats than its “Mission 84” in the 2016 polls.

The BJP has replaced the BPF with its rival United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL), which hardly had any presence in the last elections. The BPF has joined the mahajot this time.

State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass had in an interview to The Hindu calculated the “winnability” his party and allies have targeted, right down to the neighbourhood level, to justify the confidence of achieving “Mission 100”. The calculation was based on the feedback from an army of 4 lakh ‘prishtha pramukhs’ (BJP worker in charge of a page of the electoral roll containing 60 voters).

Proven poll strategy

The confidence has also come from the proven poll strategy of Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, whose seat prediction has been near-perfect in four Assembly polls till 2016, three of them when he was with Congress.

But the BJP faces more challenges than the Congress this time. Apart from the BPF, the Congress has teamed up with the minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the CPI, CPI(Marxist) and CPI(Marxist-Leninist) to take on the BJP.

The newly-floated Assam Jatiya Parishad and jailed rights activist Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal have also forged a regional front to prevent the BJP from retaining power. Theirs is avowedly a forum against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which the Mahajot is also opposing.

State Congress president Ripun Bora said the groundswell of sentiments against the CAA, price rise and misrule of the BJP has made the Mahajot upbeat about getting “100+ seats”. “Let’s see who gets how many this time, but one must remember our alliance partners had more vote share than the BJP and its allies in 2016, and there is no Modi wave this time,” AIUDF president Maulana Badruddin Ajmal said.

The BJP had won 60 of the 89 seats it contested in 2016, while the Congress won 26 of 122 seats. But the BJP’s vote share was 1.45% less than the 30.96% of the Congress.

The combined vote share of the BJP, AGP and BPF in 2016 was 41.59%. Minus that of the BPF, the vote share works out to 37.65%. Adding the vote share of UPPL, which was negligible in 2016, would hardly make any difference for the BJP-led alliance.

If one adds the 2016 vote share of the BPF, the CPI, CPI(M) and CPI(ML), the Mahajot heads to the polls with a combined vote share of 48.81%. This includes the 13.05% mustered by the AIUDF, which had won 13 of the 74 seats it had contested. A deeper analysis reveals that the Congress-AIUDF vote share was higher in 17 seats the BJP had won in 2016. The combined vote share of the Congress and the AIUDF was also higher in two seats the AGP had won.

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