Contentious seat-sharing talks in Assam provide BJP an early advantage

Guwahati, January 6 (IANS): The Congress in Assam was successful in uniting 12 parties to form a cohesive opposition to counter the BJP's formidable election machinery in the state, led by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, long before the 26 opposition parties formed the INDIA bloc.

The Left parties -- Raijor Dol, led by Sivasagar MLA Akhil Gogoi; Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP) of former All Assam Students Union (AASU) leader Lurinjyoti Gogoi -- and others were present in the unified opposition forum. However, the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a significant figure in the state's politics, is absent from the joint conference.

At first, the opposition group did not include Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress or Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Following the announcement of INDIA, the situation changed to a great extent and both Trinamool Congress and AAP are now constituents of the major opposition alliance.

However, tensions have started mounting among the allies over ticket distribution.

Assam has a total of 14 Lok Sabha seats. In the 2019 general elections, Congress fought for the maximum number of seats. But this time, as they forged a bigger alliance, the allies have started demanding seats.

AAP leaders have expressed their desire to contest at least four Lok Sabha seats, while the Trinamool Congress has also insisted on conteding in five seats.

Meanwhile, the Left parties are asking to be allocated three seats.

Akhil Gogoi has declared categorically that he will run for the Lok Sabha seat in Jorhat.

Congress is not ready to give its allies plenty of seats. Although the state party president Bhupen Borah has been speaking about sacrifice to combat with the BJP in polls.

“Our primary aim is to beat the BJP. All parties including the Congress are ready to sacrifice for the cause. I hope every leader will understand this. We must ensure that there is only one candidate from the INDIA bloc against the BJP in each Lok Sabha seat in Assam. “The ticket distribution will be decided by Delhi leaders. In Assam, we shall accept the decisions taken by the high command,” he had said recently.

The Assam Congress president further said that the opposition parties should take note of the strength of the 'Grand Old Party' in the state.

“The Congress party has three Lok Sabha MPs and more than 20 MLAs in Assam. While distributing the tickets for Lok Sabha, this fact will have to be considered by all.”

In the previous Lok Sabha polls, Congress won Nagaon, Kaliabor and Barpeta.

Although Gaurav Gogoi is still an MP from Kaliabor, the Lok Sabha constituency no longer exists following the delimitation exercise.

Gogoi has since been looking for a new constituency to fight the polls.

According to party sources, he is keen to contest from Jorhat where Akhil Gogoi has already staked his claim of candidature.
Abdul Khaleque, a Congress MP from Barpeta, has announced that he would fight polls from there. But the Left parties have been demanding this seat from the alliance.

The contention over ticket distribution among the allies of the INDIA bloc in Assam might be good news for the BJP.

Chief Minister Sarma said: “This is Khichdi alliance and the BJP will be successful to win more than 11 Lok Sabha seats in Assam.”