New Delhi(PTI): Apparently learning quick lessons from the Bihar debacle, BJP today appointed Union Minister…
Over 19.8 million voters in Assam are eligible to exercise their franchise in the two-phase polls on April 4 and April 11 to elect its 126-seat Assembly. The Assam election assumes importance this time round because of two interlinked reasons. Arguably, it is the only one among the clutch of States going to the polls where the Bharatiya Janata Party, a marginal player in West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, has a realistic chance of grabbing power.
The verdict in the State will be a barometer of the extent to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been able to retain his appeal. It propelled him to power at the Centre in 2014 and helped the party pick up an unprecedented seven out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam, but the Assembly elections in Delhi and Bihar thereafter put the brakes on the BJP’s momentum. As with Delhi and Bihar, where Arvind Kejriwal and Nitish Kumar went into the campaign as strong chief ministerial candidates, the BJP is up against a formidable local leader, the three-time Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi of the Congress. Mr. Gogoi has striven hard to convert this into a ‘CM versus PM’ face-off, but the BJP announced Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Sarbananda Sonowal as its chief ministerial nominee as early as in January. Nonetheless, the Modi factor will be crucial for the BJP in Assam because the scale and depth of the party organisation in the State are not commensurate with its Lok Sabha harvest. Alliances with regional parties such as the Asom Gana Parishad and the Bodoland People’s Front have served to fill some gaps, rendering the election a three-way contest between the BJP-led front, the Congress, and Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
While national issues, including the ongoing debate over nationalism, have found a resonance in the campaign, local issues are paramount.