Will analyse what went wrong in Assam: AIUDF chief Ajmal 

The party’s future is at stake as the results indicate the Muslims, its backbone, gravitated back to Congres.

Updated - June 05, 2024 10:38 pm IST

Published - June 05, 2024 10:37 pm IST - GUWAHATI

Badruddin Ajmal. File

Badruddin Ajmal. File | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The outcome of Mandate 2024 was a bitter pill for the Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) in Nagaland and the National People’s Party (NPP) in Meghalaya’s Tura Lok Sabha seats.

These were constituencies where the NDPP and the NPP had a stranglehold for years. But the party that was hit the hardest was the Assam-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) led by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, a perfume baron-turned-politician.

Election Results 2024: Highlights on June 5, 2024

The AIUDF, born after the Supreme Court scrapped the allegedly pro-foreigners Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act in 2005, sought to do what its predecessor, the United Minority Front could not — make the Bengali-origin Muslims a political force.

The party went from 10 seats in the 2006 Assembly elections to 18 in 2011 before the ‘Modi wave’ saw its tally dipping to 13 in 2016. The party’s victories, mostly in the Muslim-dominated constituencies, were seen as an outcome of a shift in the minority vote from the Congress and former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s tendency to ignore Mr. Ajmal.

The Congress has traditionally been seen as a beneficiary of two large “vote banks” — the Muslims who constitute more than 34% of Assam’s population and the Adivasis or “tea tribes” who comprise almost 20% of the voters.

The AIUDF, Congress and some smaller parties formed a pre-poll alliance before the 2021 Assam polls. The alliance helped the AIUDF more than the Congress as it won 16 of the 20 seats it contested.

Controversial statements

The AIUDF walked out of the alliance as the Congress kept accusing it of being the B team of the BJP. Mr. Ajmal’s statements, often controversial, were also seen as fuel for the BJP’s vehicle of polarisation.

In the Lok Sabha elections, Mr. Ajmal won the Dhubri seat for the first time in 2009 and retained it in 2014 and 2019 by defeating his nearest Congress rivals by huge margins. The AIUDF put up its best performance by winning three seats, the same as that of the Congress.

Over the last couple of years, it was becoming apparent that the AIUDF was losing ground with people in its strongholds speaking out against the party’s strategies that were allegedly against the secular entities. It also did not help that Mr. Ajmal was seen as having fielded candidates in the Muslim-dominated Nagaon and Karimganj primarily to harm the Congress.

The 2023 delimitation resulted in an increase in Muslim voters in Nagaon and Karimganj losing its status as a seat reserved for the Scheduled Castes. Delimitation also increased the number of Muslim voters in Dhubri, the constituency Mr. Ajmal represented, which already had more than 70% Muslims.

While Pradyut Bordoloi of the Congress retained Nagaon, the BJP’s Kripanath Mallah managed to overcome the challenge from Hafiz Rashid Ahmed Choudhury of the Congress to retain Karimganj after a see-saw battle.

The Hindu had reported how Mr. Ajmal would face his toughest test in Dhubri from former Minister Rakibul Hussain of the Congress. The latter won by a record margin of 10,12,476 votes.

Mr. Ajmal’s highest margin of victory was 2,29,730 in 2014.

“It [losing Dhubri] is a big blow. We will take our time to analyse what went wrong in a constituency that made me an MP for three consecutive terms,” he said on Wednesday.

The threadbare analysis, he asserted, would help the AIUDF stage a comeback in the 2026 Assembly elections.

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