With a little more than a couple of fortnights to go for the Assembly polls and the political parties declaring candidates for the first and second phase of the three-phase election, campaigning has gained momentum in the State. As is often the case post-nomination, discontentment is brewing among the failed party ticket aspirants, especially a few senior leaders of the major parties who had been denied candidature. Among the senior leaders failing to make the cut are a ruling party minister and several legislators. The AGP stalwarts Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Brindaban Goswami, too, have been given the cold shoulder this time. Also among the ignored are senior Congress leaders Tanka Bahadur Rai and Prithvi Majhi. Following the announcement of candidatures, internal bickering has hit all the parties but how far that is going to affect their electoral fortunes remains to be seen. Upbeat over their dominant performance in the last Assembly and Lok Sabha polls, the ruling BJP-AGP combine is exuding confidence and targeting a win in a hundred seats of the 126-member House. While a century does not look too convincing a prospect, yet – notwithstanding anti-incumbency factors – the ruling coalition undoubtedly has a clear edge over the Congress-led ‘grand alliance’ of the Opposition – not the least because of the failure of the Opposition parties to put up a convincing, united front. With the demise of three-time Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi a couple of months back, the Congress will also sorely miss the charismatic presence of the leader.
A strong organizational base and an efficient propaganda machinery have been the BJP’s strongest points and even serious flaws in its governance are often compensated by these two factors. Just ahead of the polls, the saffron brigade-led State Government announced a plethora of programmes, including those aimed at wooing voters through freebies and monetary benefits. While the long-term impact of such interventions either on the lives of the beneficiaries or on the economy are negative, they will undoubtedly appeal to the targeted segment of voters. More disturbingly, the Government has converted a substantial portion of loans from foreign agencies to freebies to further its narrow electoral agenda, subjecting the masses to a heavy loan burden. As for the Opposition, they seem clueless how to counter the BJP’s rolling juggernaut in the region for the past several years. The most effective antidote to the BJP’s prospects would have been to garner all the anti-CAA forces under one banner and expose the BJP’s double-speak and non-performance on several key issues. This has failed to materialize and even the understandings sought to be arrived at by the anti-BJP forces, especially the newly-floated regional parties like Assam Jatiya Parishad and Raijor Dal, has not happened. Rather, the rift in the so-called alliance has become apparent in the matter of fielding candidates, eroding the Opposition’s credibility.