How a brand new political get together to be fashioned by AASU might ignite recent alignments in Assam

In December 1985, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta moved his belongings from a hostel room in Gauhati University to the chief minister’s bungalow. So did most of his cupboard colleagues. They had been all office-bearers of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) spearheading an anti-foreigners motion (1979-85) earlier than forming a brand new political entity and wresting Assam’s political energy from the Congress. Unquestionably, it was a novel episode in India’s democratic historical past when a bunch of younger college college students in a single day metamorphosed right into a state chief minister and ministers.

The political get together which the scholars then fashioned — the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) — dominated Assam for 10 years and is now an ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). As many as 5 legislators of the current Assam authorities, together with CM Sarbananda Sonowal and two of his cupboard ministers, are former AASU presidents, demonstrating the coed physique’s energy to churn out leaders.

Thirty-five years after that epochal occasion, the AASU is at it once more. It is more likely to announce the identify and goal of a brand new regional get together this week, thereby igniting a wide range of doable political situations and alignments forward of subsequent 12 months’s meeting ballot. The Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuva Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), one other highly effective college students’ physique, and some different social organisations have helped the AASU in opening its second political innings. Further, a 16-member panel — which is fashioned by the AASU and the AJYCP, and comprising writers, advocates, filmmakers and former governor Ranjit Shekhar Mooshahary — has submitted a 47-page report, asking college students to plunge into regional politics as soon as extra. The report has not but been made public.

As it seems, the brand new get together’s principal targets would be the ruling BJP in addition to the not too long ago amended citizenship legislation. But the get together will possible tread rigorously in the case of its proximity to the Congress, the principal opposition get together, which has additionally protested in opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, thereby positioning itself on the identical web page because the AASU. The new legislation fast-tracks citizenship to Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians from three neighbouring nations even when they’d entered India illegally on or earlier than 2014.

According to the AASU, the brand new legislation has violated the Assam Accord of 1985 underneath which all immigrants, Hindu and Muslim, who illegally entered the state after March 24, 1971, might be detected and deported.

“Both the BJP and the AGP have betrayed the individuals of Assam by imposing a brand new citizenship legislation. And, characteristically, the Congress is not any completely different from the BJP. So, our new political get together received’t enable the oxygen cylinders to be managed by the Congress both,” says AASU’s basic secretary, Lurinjyoti Gogoi, over the telephone from Guwahati, including that regionalism and the rights of the indigenous individuals will kind the central theme of the brand new get together.

Gogoi, who got here into prominence throughout the anti-CAA protests, due to his oratory expertise and frequent diatribe in opposition to the state’s highly effective minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, says he received’t instantly resign from the scholars’ physique however he doesn’t rule out the potential for quitting later to contest the meeting election.

The query is, who would be the political beneficiary if the AASU-engineered get together stands equidistant from the BJP and the Congress? After all, it’s 2020, and never 1985 when the AASU-backed AGP clinched a majority by itself. Today, the BJP is a formidable power within the state. If the latest return of 30 outstanding actors and singers to its fold is any indication, lots of its supporters who had abandoned the get together throughout the top of anti-CAA protests are slowly making a ghar wapsi. In a press meet in Guwahati on Thursday, state BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass didn’t mince phrases when he mentioned the brand new regional events, together with the one to be fashioned by AASU, will solely divide anti-BJP votes, thereby not directly aiding his get together.

Editor-turned-Rajya Sabha MP from Assam, Ajit Kumar Bhuyan, argues that the one option to defeat the BJP within the subsequent election is to kind an umbrella alliance, comprising the Congress, the AIUDF and regional events, together with the one to be fashioned by the AASU and the AJYCP. “The AASU has to resolve who’s its larger enemy — the BJP or the Congress. It should transfer tactically. Assam’s inhabitants sample can’t maintain a standalone regional get together of Assamese individuals. The method out is to have a broad alliance with the Congress and the AIUDF,” says Bhuyan, himself a staunch anti-CAA protester, who obtained elected to the Rajya Sabha not too long ago as an impartial candidate backed by the Congress and the AIUDF.

About 5 years in the past, ballot strategist Prashant Kishor had prolonged a personal go to to his in-laws’ place in Guwahati to clandestinely meet the leaders of varied events, attempting to create an anti-BJP power of the Congress, AIUDF and the AGP. The try, nevertheless, didn’t fructify. The AGP, which concurrently bargained with the BJP and the Congress, lastly selected the previous as its companion.

As of right now, the Congress and the AIUDF have nearly made up their minds to come back collectively, one thing that would give the combo an extra 10-12 seats within the minority-dominated areas of decrease and center Assam. But there’s a giant gap in that technique. It will give sufficient ammunition to the BJP’s marketing campaign firepower to color the Congress as a pro-Muslim get together, not a pro-Assamese get together — a tactic that would consequence within the Congress getting worn out in higher Assam the place Badruddin Ajmal-headed AIUDF is seen as an outfit that favours unlawful Bangladeshi migrants. Upper Assam is the place anti-CAA protests struck a chord with the individuals and the place the brand new, AASU-backed get together may discover a stronghold.

The Congress appears keen to sacrifice its personal seats and embrace new allies. “The Congress’s arms are large open for a broad coalition. We need all pro-Assam, anti-BJP events to come back collectively on one platform,” says Gaurav Gogoi, the get together’s deputy chief within the Lok Sabha and a member of Parliament from Assam.

Clearly, the Congress will want the AIUDF to consolidate its bases in decrease and center Assam in addition to the AASU-backed get together to retain its choose pockets in higher Assam, a Herculean pre-poll engineering that would properly make 2021 an evenly contested battle.

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