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Anti-Bangladeshi speech, Congress rebels brought BJP home in Assam

Saturday, 17 May 2014 - 6:10am IST | Place: GUWAHATI | Agency: dna

Multiple factors contributed to the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) stunning performance in Assam, which was on expected lines given the prevalent mood on the ground for change.

Fed up with the corruption in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, voters, not just Assam, but the Northeast, voted in favour of Narendra Modi's development plank. Modi's strong statements against Bangladeshi immigrants also helped him garner votes in Assam.

Development in the state had taken a backseat in the wake of growing dissidence by a group of Congress legislators. The rebellion literally divided the party MLAs into two groups, with one utilising every opportunity that came its way to demand chief minister Tarun Gogoi's ouster. As the Congress went to the polls, the rebels were seen actively working against those party candidates who were loyal to Gogoi.

Such dissidence is the reason that Union minister Ranee Narah and former Union minister BK Handique lost in Lakhimpur and Jorhat constituencies respectively.

The BJP was optimistic about the 14 seats in Assam and as such, worked overtime to improve upon its 2009 tally of four. At the end of the day, its tally stood at seven. In fact, not just Assam, the 25 seats in the Northeast, including Sikkim, were crucial for both the BJP and the Congress. While the Congress laid its focus on the region as a whole, the BJP set its sights on Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

The BJP gauged the ground situation well, and utilised Modi's rallies to maximise its chances. The idea was to reach out to people through none other than the Gujarat chief minister. In all his three visits to the state in the run-up to the polls, Modi tried to address rallies in as many places as possible.

The Congress, which has been in power in Assam since 2001, had no powerful opposition until a few years ago. But the BJP has been able to give the Congress a run for its money. This is largely because the saffron party significantly consolidated its base in the state after the charismatic former leader of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Sarbananda Sonowal, was chosen to lead the party here. Born out of the anti-foreigners' movement of 1980s, the AGP ruled Assam twice and was a force to reckon with. That space has now been taken over by the BJP.

The people in Assam are increasingly terrified of being outnumbered as a result of the infiltration of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. The BJP was able to play on this fear by promising to go hard on illegal migrants if voted to power.

"The BJP's performance in Assam is on expected lines. The party managed to reap the benefits of the nationwide mood for change," political analyst Sanat Chakraborty said. "The people were fed up with the level of corruption. So, they voted in favour of the BJP for stability and good governance."

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