GUWAHATI, April 1 - With the AIUDF deciding to contest only from three constituencies in the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, the ruling BJP is now looking at options to consolidate its position among the electorate belonging to the majority community, including the indigenous voters of Assam.
AIUDF�s decision is likely to result in transfer of its traditional support base among the Bengali-speaking Muslim voters in the other seats, where it is not in the fray, in favour of the Congress.
Leaders in the State BJP admitted that AIUDF�s sudden announcement to refrain from contesting in other constituencies, barring the three seats which the Badruddin Ajmal-led party had won in the 2014 General Elections, has brought an entire new dimension to the electoral battle this time and forced it to improvise on its strategies.
�There is no doubt that quite a substantial chunk of AIUDF�s traditional vote bank will now shift to the Congress party in those seats where Ajmal is not putting up his candidates. That could pose a challenge to us as the combined vote share of Congress and AIUDF was larger than what we managed to secure in a number of constituencies during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls,� said a senior State BJP leader.
He added, �however, at the same time it has given us an opportunity to �expose� the danger faced by the people of Assam, especially the indigenous communities. In our campaign, we are now telling the voters about the threat posed to the future of Assam due to the �undeclared alliance� between the Congress and the AIUDF.�
BJP leaders believe that the shift of the Bengali-speaking Muslim vote bank of the AIUDF to the Congress in selected constituencies will, in turn, help the saffron party in securing the support of the voters belonging to the majority community.
�The Uttar Pradesh or Bihar model of Hindutva will not work in Assam. Instead, our strategy here is to talk about �Indian nationalism� and also �regional identity� and try to bring both thoughts under one umbrella. This way we are looking to rally the indigenous communities as well as other �nationalist� elements behind us,� said a BJP source.
It is noteworthy that besides emerging victorious from Dhubri, Barpeta and Karimganj seats in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the AIUDF had also managed to secure substantial votes in constituencies like Silchar, Mangaldai, Nagaon, Kaliabor and even Guwahati.
In 2014, Congress candidate Sushmita Dev won the Silchar seat by securing 3,36,451 votes and her nearest BJP rival Kabindra Purkayastha was the runner up with 3,01,210 votes. The margin between the two was 35,241 votes.
But the AIUDF candidate from Silchar, Kutub Ahmed Mazumder, had polled 85,530 votes.
Silchar is one of the constituencies the BJP is targeting to snatch this time. However, there is a likelihood that the AIUDF�s votes, in the absence of a candidate from the party, will now shift to the Congress.
Similarly, BJP�s Ramen Deka had defeated Congress candidate Kirip Chaliha by a margin of only 22,884 votes in 2014 in the Mangaldai seat. Deka had secured 4,86,357 votes and Chaliha polled 4,63,473 votes.
AIUDF�s Mangaldai candidate Paresh Baishya had received 74,710 votes, which was much more than the margin between the winner and the runner-up candidates.
In Nagaon LS seat, BJP�s Rajen Gohain (4,94,146 votes) had defeated his nearest Congress party rival Jonjonali Baruah (3,50,587 votes) by a margin of 1,43,559 votes in 2014, while AIUDF nominee Dr Aditya Langthasa had secured 3,14,012 votes.
In Kaliabor, Congress party�s Gaurav Gogoi had defeated BJP�s Mrinal Kumar Saikia by a margin of 93,874 votes in the 2014 elections. Gogoi had secured 4,43,315 votes as against Saikia�s 3,49,441 votes.
However, AIUDF�s Bijoy Kumar Tiru had also performed very well from the Kaliabor constituency by securing 2,31,295 votes.
Even in Guwahati constituency, AIUDF had managed to secure over 1.37 lakh votes in the 2014 election.
BJP sources, however, claimed that the shift of the AIUDF vote bank to the Congress will be compensated to some extent on account of the BJP-AGP alliance for the forthcoming polls.
AGP is contesting from three constituencies � Kaliabor, Dhubri and Barpeta � as part of the seat-sharing arrangement among the constituents of the ruling NDA in Assam.
But it is noteworthy that AGP had not done well in 2014, when the regional party had contested the polls on its own.
For example, AGP candidate Dr Arun Kumar Sarma had received only 78,132 votes in Kaliabor in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, while the party�s Dhubri nominee Anowar Hussain had received a mere 9,897 votes (the BJP candidate in Dhubri had secured 2,98,985 votes in 2014).
Similarly, AGP had received 73,733 votes in Barpeta constituency and 66,467 votes in Mangaldai constituency during the last Lok Sabha election.