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Assam opposition's grand alliance plans floundering?

By The Assam Tribune

GUWAHATI, March 11 (IANS) - A divided Opposition is Assam continues to look for a meeting point to take on the ruling Congress party as the battle lines are drawn for the Assembly elections next month.

The fight for the 126-member assembly is between the Congress and a fractured Opposition led by the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF). The two-day poll will be held April 4 and 11.

"The opposition must unite to defeat the Congress. If we look at the 2006 assembly election sheet, we find the Congress party with a 29 percent vote share in power. If we are able to keep the 71 percent vote share intact, we can surely keep the Congress out of power this time," AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary told IANS.

But the AGP's move for a grand alliance to prevent the Congress from making a political hat-trick has come a cropper, with the two other main players - the BJP and AUDF - rejecting the proposal.

"No question of being on the same platform with the BJP. It is a communal party. We are not opposed to joining hands with the AGP, but not when the BJP is there," AUDF president Badruddin Ajmal said.

According to BJP Assam unit president Ranjit Dutta, it is now too late for a grand alliance.

"The AGP was the first to snap ties with us in September after we had an alliance in the 2009 general election," Dutta told IANS.

In the 2006 assembly poll, the Congress won 58 seats, the AGP 24, the BJP and AUDF 10 each and the Bodoland People's Front (BPF) 11, besides some smaller parties and independent candidates.

The BPF has been an alliance partner of the Congress since 2001.

The Congress party is confident of its prospects.

"Whether or not the opposition unites, the Congress and the BPF would form the next government in Assam and I am more than 100 percent confident about that," Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS.

So far the opposition has not really been able to focus on any major issues and both the AGP and the BJP are busy refuting allegations of a secret seat-sharing deal.

The BJP particularly faces charges of putting up weak candidates against some senior AGP leaders, a deal that could also help it in some seats by way of a reciprocal gesture.

Gogoi dismissed the threat from such secret deals in the opposition camp.

"Don't really care about the opposition. We are focussing on development and peace - our twin mantras for the elections," Gogoi said.

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