Assam 2011:
Congress Gets Unexpectedly Decisive Majority

Rubul Sarma

Defying all assessments of media circles and almost all political camps, the Congress registered an unexpectedly huge victory by winning 78 of 126 seats of Assam Assembly. Tarun Gogoi has returned to power for his third consecutive term. This unexpected victory of the Congress has raised many questions. The main opposition party AGP attributes this to ‘EVM-tampering’, a complaint which is shared quite widely by many forces. In the election the AGP has suffered the most, its tally dropping sharply from 24 to 10, the lowest since 1985, when they AGP had ascended to power.
EVM-tampering may well be a factor, but the poll outcome must primarily be attributed to disunity among the opposition and the success of the clever Congress strategy of ‘divide and rule’ and ‘dialogue and rule’. Incidentally while both AGP and BJP suffered major reverses, the Muslim-backed AIUDF succeeded in doubling its strength from 9 to 18 and even the Bodo People’s Front, an ally of the Congress raised its tally from 10 to 12. The AIUDF gained overwhelmingly in the immigrant Muslim dominated areas of lower Assam where the party’s strength grew from 3 in 2006 to 13 in 2011. The BPF gains came mainly from Bodo votes.
Just before the election, the Congress Government had initiated a peace process with ULFA, which created a favourable condition for the Congress as the people felt that an opposition victory might again motivate or enable the insurgent forces to raise their heads. The Congress also created a whole array of development councils to attract and accommodate the aspirations of even the smallest of tribes and communities e.g. Thengal Kachari, Sonowal, Deouri, Man-tai speaking, Bishnupriya Manipuri, Manipuri, Nath-Yogi community besides Mising, Rabha, Tiwa Autonomous councils. Likewise, various targeted welfare schemes such as distribution of blankets, yarns for weaving, mosquito net, Anna suraksha yojana, Majani-Manoni, Aideo-Baideo etc. for women welfare, enabled the ruling party to penetrate deep among wide sections of the rural masses.
No comprehensive seat-sharing was possible among Left forces because of the CPI’s refusal to leave some key seats for the CPI(ML) (incidentally, the CPI supported the AGP in one of these seats). The CPI(ML) put up 8 candidates and extended support to the CPI(M) and Forward Bloc candidates among the Left and to four independent candidates backed by PAPA (People’s Alliance for Peace Agreement) in Karbi Anglong. We polled nearly 25,000 votes including 12784 votes in Bihali (Sonitpur district) where we finished third. The party’s votes dropped in Bihali and Chabua, the two key seats contested by the party in tea-garden areas, even though votes increased marginally in Tingkhong in Dibrugarh district and Teok in Jorhat district. In this election, the Congress won in almost all Adivasi-tea community dominated constituencies of Assam. A deep investigation and serious analysis of our decline is urgently needed in the tea-garden areas.

As for the CPI and CPI(M), they lost all their sitting MLA seats, the CPI losing its lone seat to the Congress and the CPI(M) losing its two seats to the Congress and BJP respectively. As already mentioned, this time CPI(ML) did not contest any seat in Karbi Anglong, extending support to united anti-Congress candidates in all four seats, but the Congress managed to win all four seats thus further improving its tally in the hill districts.