Elections to three Rajya Sabha seats in Assam on March 26 could turn out to be a tussle between those for and against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
The 126-member Assam Assembly has an effective strength of 124 after the death of two MLAs.
With 86 legislators, the BJP and its allies are confident of winning two of the three seats to be vacated by Bhubaneswar Kalita, Sanjay Sinh and Biswajit Daimary in April.
Both Mr. Kalita and Dr. Sinh quit the Congress and joined the BJP last year. Mr. Daimary belongs to the Bodoland People’s Front, one of BJP’s two regional allies.
The Opposition comprising the Congress with 23 MLAs and perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) with 14 MLAs can bag the third seat only if they field a consensus candidate and there is cross-voting.
The Congress and the AIUDF, formed in 2005 after the Supreme Court scrapped the allegedly pro-foreigners Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act of 1983, have hardly been on the same page.
But the anti-CAA stand is expected to bring the two parties together for the Rajya Sabha elections, where the value attached to the votes of the MLAs decides the winner. The two parties have been scouting for an vocal anti-CAA activist.
“The equation is such that the two parties have to come together to make space in a constricting political atmosphere created by the present divisive dispensation,” Congress leader Apurba Bhattacharjee told The Hindu .
AIUDF legislator Aminul Islam agreed. He said the anti-CAA agitation in Assam has given the two parties a reason to zero in on a consensus candidate. “We are looking for someone who can raise the burning issues of Assam in Parliament,” he added.
The names of the CAA critics doing the rounds include jailed peasant leader Akhil Gogoi, film-maker Jahnu Barua, actor Barasha Rani Bishoya, journalist Ajit Kumar Bhuyan and Assamese media mogul Jayanta Baruah.
Mr Barua, however, said he was not interested in joining politics or contesting elections.
The possible tie-up between the Congress and AIUDF for the Rajya Sabha election has given the BJP a stick to beat the Congress with, particularly because former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has often labelled Mr Ajmal’s party as BJP’s “B-team.”
“Seven generations of people in Assam will not forgive anyone who gets elected to the Upper House of Parliament with the help of AIUDF. Such a candidate will come across as someone who opposed the CAA only to get a Rajya Sabha berth,” Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
The BJP has been projecting the AIUDF as a party catering to illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, who could rule Assam one day if the indigenous people do not make the “right political choice.”