The NDA in Assam is currently leading in 10 seats in Assam while Congress is leading in 1 seat and AIUDF is also set to win only 1 seat. In the run-up to the elections, the opposition parties had relied a lot on campaigning against the Citizenship Amendment Bill, however, it does not appear to have worked at all.
The Congress ploy in Assam was to prevent the consolidation of Hindu votes in favour of the BJP by attempting to divide Bengalis and the Assamese on the basis of ethnicity. Meanwhile, the BJP had been trying consistently to avoid the ethnic minefield and build a consolidation between the communities. Under the enigmatic leadership of Himanta Biswa Sharma, the BJP appears to have registered a spectacular success.
The AIUDF was always going to rely on Muslim votes for its success. There were reports of closet deals between Badruddin Ajmal and the top Congress leadership with obvious backing from the latter’s central core but the state leadership of the Congress was always against it. In the end, the Congress party’s state leadership prevailed, and the formal alliance was avoided. But AIUDF had contested only 3 seats it thought it had chance to win, thereby preventing the division of Muslim votes in other seats between AIUDF and Congress and help Congress party in the elections.
The great victory of the BJP in Assam also indicates that ethnic polarization in the state appears to have become a dead horse. The central leadership of the party and state leaders such as Himanta Biswa Sarma must be congratulated in this regard. As anyone with any knowledge of Assam’s history must be aware, the relationship between Bengali Hindus and Assamese haven’t been too great. However, for now, the communities appear to have buried the horrors of their past.
Not just in Assam, but all over the North East, the Citizenship Amendment Bill doesn’t appear to have harmed the electoral prospects of the BJP at all and the NRC has only helped it. In fact, it looks set to improve upon its tally from 2014, and set to win at least 17 out of 25 seats in the region.
The results also puncture the theory that people of Assam are against the Citizenship Amendment Bill as a whole. Almost all political parties, including BJP allies, had opposed the bill while BJP remained firm on its support for the amendment. BJP leadership was saying that the massive protests against the bill conducted by several organisations didn’t have popular support, and they have proved correct. Congress party had maintained a dual stand on the bill, while Barak valley Congress units were supporting the bill, the Congress leaders in the Brahmaputra valley had opposed the same. But later when the high command took a stand against the bill and Rahul Gandhi gave his support to anti-CAB protesters, the entire state unit was forced to follow the high command line.
Thus, the BJP’s stellar performance in Assam isn’t merely significant in terms of Narendra Modi’s own electoral prospects but also for the cohesion between Bengalis and Assamese in the state.