A lesson for grand old party

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The Congress, despite facing internal opposition, decided to ally with the AIUDF of Badruddin Ajmal before the Assam assembly elections to dethrone BJP from power. The grand old party, however, failed to dislodge the saffron party from power. The dissensions, which somehow got silent keeping in mind the unity of the party during the election campaign in March this year started appearing, as expected, after the defeat. Leaders like RupjyotiKurmi, the party’s prominent tea tribe face and Sushmita Dev, the party’s prominent leader in the Barak Valley, left the party. So, the Congress party’s decision to break its alliance with AIUDF should not  be a big surprise. Although the grand old party cited AIUDF MLAs praising chief minister Himanta Bishwa Sarma and his saffron government as the major reason for the breakup, this isn’t the actual reason. The communal image of AIUDF, despite allying with the so-called secular Congress, didn’t change among the Assamese voters, who are dominant in Upper Assam.

 In its desperation to defeat the BJP, Congress tried to revive its old bitter past  by allying with AIUDF, a party thought to be primarily formed to protect the interests of illegal immigrants. The leaders of the party even failed to notice that Ajmal’s party was slowly losing its foothold among the Muslims, who were polarising behind the Congress as a result of BJP’s rising strength both at the centre and the state. This trend was witnessed in the rural body polls held in 2018.  Later in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, Ajmal, aware of his party’s declining strength, decided to put candidates only in 3 seats, where his party won in 2014. In the rest of the seats, AIUDF supported Congress. Despite this, neither Congress nor the AIUDF gained much with BJP sweeping the polls by winning 9 seats out of 14. AIUDF failed to retain two of its seats with only Ajmal winning from his traditional stronghold Dhubri seat and Congress getting 3 seats as it got in 2014.

 AIUDF was also a major rival of the Congress. After its breakup with AIUDF, Congress hopes that Akhil Gogoi’sRaijor Dal may try to explore an adjustment, if not an alliance, with the party in the upcoming by-elections of five assembly seats, where Assamese and indigenous voters have a significant influence. By allying with AIUDF, the grand old party in Assam got nothing. It alienated the Assamese and indigenous communities. On the other hand, it gave oxygen to Ajmal’s declining party. Congress has only hurt its own image. It won’t be easy to shed the image of the pro-Muslim party. In fact, at one time AGP after severing its alliance with the BJP had even tried to ally with AIUDF to defeat the Congress. It’s now well known that AGP later slowly lost its own ground with BJP getting support from Assamese and indigenous communities, the same communities who were once voters of AGP. The political developments of Assam should be a lesson for the grand old party that strategies aimed only at forging alliances with lesser rival parties to dethrone bigger rival BJP won’t work.

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