A war of words has broken out between the leaders of the AIUDF, the most formidable ally of the Congress, and Akhil as Badruddin Ajmal’s party wants a united opposition at any cost before the 2024 general election.
A couple of byelections are due in Assam, one in Tamulpur, and the other in Gossaigaon in lower Assam, after the death of sitting MLAs Leho Ram Boro and Majendra Narzary respectively.
But the spotlight is now on Upper Assam where byelections are also due in Mariani and Majuli. Both seats are politically important as they can put in motion or upset the plans of both the ruling and opposition parties. The Congress suffered a setback in Mariani last month after its four-time legislator, Rupjyoti Kurmi, joined the BJP. He later resigned from the post of MLA. Majuli, which is under the focus of the BJP now for its all-pervading Vaishnavite culture, is also set to go for a byelection after its representative, former chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, got inducted in the Union cabinet.
Rupjyoti, a formidable force in the area, is most likely to be BJP’s choice for Mariani. Akhil’s home constituency is Mariani, where the Raijor Dal did not field any candidate in the last assembly polls to ensure BJP’s defeat. Rupjyoti won to re-establish Congress’s hold over the belt, but the very next month joined the BJP.
“It’s shameful that neither the Congress nor the Raijor Dal has the confidence to field its own candidate in Mariani,” Rupjyoti had said when Akhil had revealed that talks were on with the Congress for the byelections and had even asked Akhil to concentrate on his home turf, Sivasagar.
Not reacting to this remark, Akhil has said they should be able to field a consensus candidate if the Congress did not play spoilsport. Akhil had also urged the party to leave out the ‘communal AIUDF’ from the Mahajot.
His appeal did not go without a scathing attack from AIUDF leader Aminul Islam, who accused Akhil of helping the BJP from the backdoor. “The BJP has a government at the Centre and in the state. Without a solid opposition it would not be easy to defeat them. But Akhil wants to divide secular anti-BJP votes to help the ruling party,” Islam said. He also blamed the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) of trying to weaken the opposition forces by dividing it on the lines of the Raijor Dal.
Assam PCC president Ripun Bora has appealed to Akhil and their allies not to make AIUDF an issue before the crucial byelections. He said the Mahajot, comprising the Congress, AIUDF, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), CPM, CPI, CPI-ML (Liberation) and Anchalik Gana Morcha, are still together and formulating strategies to take on the BJP. “In the coming byelections, two seats are in the Bodoland Territorial Region (Tamulpur and Gossaigaon), while the other two are in upper Assam. The question of the AIUDF fielding candidates in these seats does not arise. So there should not be an attempt to weaken our strength by targeting Ajmal’s party,” Bora told TOI.
He admitted that the Congress has not been able to contact Hagrama Mohilary’s BPF of late. But, it’s the BPF which fielded candidates from the Mahajot in the Tamulpur and Gossaigaon seats in the last assembly polls. Nevertheless, Bora said Congress is preparing for the byelection at the party level and except for BPF, talks have been held with the other constituent parties. “All opposition parties must field consensus candidates. Mahajot’s strategy is clear. We are just waiting for a positive opinion from the Raijor Dal and AJP,” he added.
The Congress-led Mahajot ended up with 50 seats in the 2021 Assam election, of which AIUDF won 16, BPF four and CPM one. The tally of the Congress went up by three from 26 in 2016 election to 29 seats in 2021 polls.