Given the perceived BJP wave and dissidence within the ruling Congress in Assam, it will be an acid test for chief minister Tarun Gogoi as the state goes to polls in the first phase.
The Congress has been in power in Assam since 2001 and hasn't lost a single election ever since. Despite that the party, possibly, has huge challenge. The party had won seven out of the 14 seats in 2009 and Gogoi hopes to increase the tally by at least three seats. But many even within his party feel his hopes are far from becoming reality.
The BJP has grown by leaps and bounds in Assam in recent years. Its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's recent visits to the state had only strengthened the party. But what could, perhaps, damage Congress most is the
growing dissidence within the party. Dissidence has come to such a pass that the legislators are now seen divided on the issue of support to party candidates. One of the victims of the dissidence is Ranee Narah contesting from Lakhimpur. Ranee is believed to be a member of the Gogoi camp. The other camp is allegedly being led by state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is being seen as the future chief minister. Gogoi's continuance as the chief minister will depend much on the poll outcome.
Lakhimpur has nine assembly segments and in eight of them the sitting MLAs are from Congress. Ranee should have sat pretty but non-cooperation from the rebel MLAs has made her task tougher. They had literally gone into hiding in the run-up-to the polls. A couple of them had allegedly told party workers not to vote in favour of Ranee, who is up against BJP state unit chief Sarbananda Sonowal. It remains to be seen if the workers sing to the tune of the rebel MLAs by boycotting Ranee.
Dissidence has also hit the poll prospects of two other Congress candidates, former Union minister BK Handique and Lalit Mohan Suklabaidya. Handique and Suklabaidya are contesting from Jorhat and Karimganj seats respectively. They face stiff challenges from the BJP candidates.
Keeping in perspective the rise of BJP, political analysts say the saffron party will give Congress a run for their money. Born out of the anti-foreigners agitation of 1980s, regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which ruled Assam twice, was the Congress' principal rival. That space has now been taken over by BJP. Weakened by infighting, the AGP now battles for survival.
The All India United Democratic Front, led by Lok Sabha MP and perfume baron Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, had sprung a surprise by emerging as the second largest party after Congress in the last state elections. But the Congress doesn't see it as a threat as it holds sway only in pockets in parliamentary elections.
The people in Assam are increasingly terrified for fear of being outnumbered as a result of the infiltration of illegal Bangladeshi migrants. The BJP, which won four seats in 2009, has been able to play on the threat by promising to go hard at them if voted to power.
"Surely, the polls in Assam will be keenly contested. This could well be Gogoi's toughest election as the chief minister. Given the rise of BJP in the state and the infighting within the ruling party, we shouldn't be surprised if Congress fares very poorly," a political analyst told dna.