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Opinions differ in Cong; BJP foresees exodus from grand old party


GUWAHATI, March 19 - Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi�s recent utterances regarding a formal alliance between the Congress and the AIUDF in next year�s Assam Assembly polls have created a difference of opinion within the ranks of the principal opposition party.

On the other hand, the BJP has claimed that the newfound Congress-AIUDF �bonhomie� has upset many in the grand old party and some of them are likely to cross over to the saffron outfit in coming weeks and months.

�Many senior leaders of our party oppose any association with the AIUDF. They are apprehensive that if we enter into an understanding with the AIUDF then it may have serious repercussions for our party�s prospects in the 2021 elections. Firstly, it could offend the Assamese community as well as the Hindu voters in general, who view the AIUDF as a party working for the interests of immigrant Bangladeshi Muslims. Secondly, the BJP will use any prospective Congress-AIUDF alliance as an excuse to further polarise the electorate on religious lines. So, many of our leaders believe that an alliance with the AIUDF will only be counterproductive,� a senior Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) office-bearer told this newspaper.

He added, �Some old-time and die-hard supporters of Gogoi are also upset because it was the former Chief Minister himself who had over the years opposed having any truck with the AIUDF.�

Sources added that the BJP has been in the backfoot in upper Assam during recent months due to the anti-CAA agitation. �It is a perfect opportunity for us to replace the BJP in upper Assam. However, if we enter into an alliance with the AIUDF we could lose the chance and the BJP will regain whatever ground it has lost in the last three-four months. The Assamese community, including the indigenous ethnic groups, as well as the Hindus in general may not look favourably to us getting cosy with the AIUDF. Having an alliance with Badruddin Ajmal for the BTC polls is one thing, but extending that �friendship� to the State level is a totally different ballgame,� said a source.

On the other hand, many others believe that the time is ideal for forging a tie-up with AIUDF.

�Gogoi knows very well that such major decisions like forging a formal alliance can be taken by our party�s high command. Besides, elections are scheduled only after another 13-14 months. In a sense, Gogoi is testing the ground and has floated the idea to see how the voters react. But let me tell you with confidence that almost 60 per cent of our State leaders have now come round to accepting the idea that an alliance with the AIUDF will be beneficial in 2021,� said a senior State Congress leader.

He claimed that the Congress lost from at least 25 seats in the 2016 Assembly polls due to split in minority votes between itself and the AIUDF.

�Sentiments are not enough in politics. Arithmetic is more relevant. A large number of our leaders now accept that tying up with Ajmal is the most sensible thing to do if we want to prevent division of votes and oust the BJP from power,� added the Congress source.

Meanwhile, sources in the State BJP claimed that they have started receiving feelers from many Congress workers.

�The growing intimacy between the Congress and the AIUDF has upset many workers and leaders of the principal opposition party. A number of Congress workers from across the State have contacted us and expressed their wish to join our party. Our doors are open for all those who believe in the ideology and principles of the BJP,� a senior leader of the ruling party said.

Interestingly, a number of local, block and district-level office-bearers and workers of the Congress party from Majuli district today switched over to the BJP during a programme held here.

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