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Cong optimistic about gaining from AIUDF move to contest only 3 seats

By PRANJAL BHUYAN
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GUWAHATI, March 26 - Even as the Congress and the AIUDF have officially denied having arrived at any �understanding� for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, leaders of both the parties have admitted that the decision of the Badruddin Ajmal-led party to contest from only three constituencies in the State and refrain from fielding nominees in the other seats will benefit the Congress in the elections.

Sources in both the parties said the AIUDF support base, comprising mainly Bengali-speaking Muslim electorate, is now likely to shift en masse to the Congress in constituencies like Mangaldai, Nagaon, Silchar and Kaliabor.

The AIUDF had yesterday announced its decision to contest from Dhubri, Barpeta and Karimganj � which it had won in the 2014 general elections and called upon its supporters to exercise �conscience vote� in the other parliamentary seats.

�In the absence of the AIUDF�s own candidates, its supporters will definitely vote for another �secular� party and ours in the largest secular party. So, Congress is the most viable alternative for AIUDF supporters in those constituencies. Therefore, we are confident of securing those votes. We will be the main beneficiary of the AIUDF�s latest decision,� a senior Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) office-bearer told The Assam Tribune.

He, however, claimed that the AIUDF�s latest decision is, to some extent, driven by certain compulsions.

�Realistically speaking, the AIUDF is in no position to contest a large number of seats. Its support base has eroded substantially during the last two to three years,� said the leader on condition of anonymity. Another Congress leader said the Bengali Muslim �support bases� of both the parties overlap.

�But, at the same time, the Congress will not want to be seen embracing Ajmal formally, as any perceived �proximity� will not go down well with the majority community voters in general and the indigenous communities of the State in particular,� he said.

Sources in the Congress added that the AIUDF�s latest decision is also likely to prompt the ruling BJP to aggressively play the Hindutva card in the State as the saffron party can no longer safely rely on division of minority votes in other constituencies, barring the three where Ajmal�s party will contest.

�Chances of the BJP attempting to polarise voters on communal lines in the run-up to the elections have now increased. To swing the majority community voters to its side, the BJP will try to portray the latest development as a deal between the Congress and the AIUDF,� said a leader.

Asked if there has been some sort of �behind-the-scenes� understanding between the two parties, sources said that Ajmal had recently visited New Delhi and met senior Congress leaders.

�However, we are unaware of what figured during those discussions. The facts will be known only to Ajmal himself and the senior Congress leaders in Delhi,� said a senior AIUDF leader.

He added, �However, it is natural to assume that a substantial chunk of our voters in the rest 11 constituencies, where we are not fielding our own candidates, will now opt for the Congress.�

Sources in the AIUDF conceded that Ajmal�s position in his own Dhubri constituency is no longer as strong as it had been earlier.

�We will have to wait and see if the Congress fields �weak� or �strong� candidates from Dhubri and Barpeta. Then, we can make some clear assumption if there is really any �secret� tie-up between the top leadership of the two parties,� said the AIUDF leader.

It is noteworthy that the AIUDF had secured substantial votes in constituencies like Silchar, Kaliabor and Nagaon in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

However, the party suffered massive reverses in many districts during last year�s panchayat polls.

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Cong optimistic about gaining from AIUDF move to contest only 3 seats

GUWAHATI, March 26 - Even as the Congress and the AIUDF have officially denied having arrived at any �understanding� for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls, leaders of both the parties have admitted that the decision of the Badruddin Ajmal-led party to contest from only three constituencies in the State and refrain from fielding nominees in the other seats will benefit the Congress in the elections.

Sources in both the parties said the AIUDF support base, comprising mainly Bengali-speaking Muslim electorate, is now likely to shift en masse to the Congress in constituencies like Mangaldai, Nagaon, Silchar and Kaliabor.

The AIUDF had yesterday announced its decision to contest from Dhubri, Barpeta and Karimganj � which it had won in the 2014 general elections and called upon its supporters to exercise �conscience vote� in the other parliamentary seats.

�In the absence of the AIUDF�s own candidates, its supporters will definitely vote for another �secular� party and ours in the largest secular party. So, Congress is the most viable alternative for AIUDF supporters in those constituencies. Therefore, we are confident of securing those votes. We will be the main beneficiary of the AIUDF�s latest decision,� a senior Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) office-bearer told The Assam Tribune.

He, however, claimed that the AIUDF�s latest decision is, to some extent, driven by certain compulsions.

�Realistically speaking, the AIUDF is in no position to contest a large number of seats. Its support base has eroded substantially during the last two to three years,� said the leader on condition of anonymity. Another Congress leader said the Bengali Muslim �support bases� of both the parties overlap.

�But, at the same time, the Congress will not want to be seen embracing Ajmal formally, as any perceived �proximity� will not go down well with the majority community voters in general and the indigenous communities of the State in particular,� he said.

Sources in the Congress added that the AIUDF�s latest decision is also likely to prompt the ruling BJP to aggressively play the Hindutva card in the State as the saffron party can no longer safely rely on division of minority votes in other constituencies, barring the three where Ajmal�s party will contest.

�Chances of the BJP attempting to polarise voters on communal lines in the run-up to the elections have now increased. To swing the majority community voters to its side, the BJP will try to portray the latest development as a deal between the Congress and the AIUDF,� said a leader.

Asked if there has been some sort of �behind-the-scenes� understanding between the two parties, sources said that Ajmal had recently visited New Delhi and met senior Congress leaders.

�However, we are unaware of what figured during those discussions. The facts will be known only to Ajmal himself and the senior Congress leaders in Delhi,� said a senior AIUDF leader.

He added, �However, it is natural to assume that a substantial chunk of our voters in the rest 11 constituencies, where we are not fielding our own candidates, will now opt for the Congress.�

Sources in the AIUDF conceded that Ajmal�s position in his own Dhubri constituency is no longer as strong as it had been earlier.

�We will have to wait and see if the Congress fields �weak� or �strong� candidates from Dhubri and Barpeta. Then, we can make some clear assumption if there is really any �secret� tie-up between the top leadership of the two parties,� said the AIUDF leader.

It is noteworthy that the AIUDF had secured substantial votes in constituencies like Silchar, Kaliabor and Nagaon in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

However, the party suffered massive reverses in many districts during last year�s panchayat polls.