By Anindya Banerjee
New Delhi, Sep 4 (IANS) The Assam BJP went into a huddle in Srimanta Sankaradev Kalakshetra on Friday for the state executive meeting attended by BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav. His role has been to rouse the party in the state to work in mission mode for what the BJP calls its ‘Mission 100’ to ensure that the party along with its allies comes back to power with a thumping majority in the Assembly election next year.
But sources say, regardless of the dismissiveness exhibited by the BJP leaders while giving sound bytes on television, the saffron party is mindful of the challenge an AIUDF-Congress alliance can pose compounded by the Centre’s decision on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) which irked its core voter base when the legislation was brought in, sparking violence.
The BJP has decided that each active cadre of the Assam BJP will go to the booth level to connect with the voters. Voter mapping will be a key part of the entire exercise. Each karyakarta is required to connect with 60 voters, till the election.
The BJP has 42 lakh cadres on paper. After Friday’s state executive meeting, Assam BJP President Ranjeet Kumar Das said, “If each of our cadres get one new member to BJP, we will cross our Mission 100, without doubt”.
While that remains a political statement, the BJP is mindful that it needs to win new seats, to balance any losses from its kitty. Hence, the BJP, which already has been building its organisation in the 24 seats the Congress won in the 2016 Assembly election, has decided to aggressively push to snatch a few, come the 2021 Assembly poll.
Phanindra Nath Sarma, who is the State General Secretary (Org) told IANS, “In 2016, BJP and alliance partners set a target of 84+ based on 2014 result. But based on the 2019 result and all the crucial decisions the Centre has taken in the last one year, BJP has set a target of 100+”.
The BJP has already been pushing for developmental work in these 24 constituencies coupled with organisational meetings in Moriani, Titabor, Nazira, Samuguri, Sibsagar, which were either paused or went virtual due to the pandemic that forced India to go for a nationwide lockdown in late March. But now, the BJP wants to actively pursue those constituencies.
On Thursday, both Das and the BJP’s trouble shooter in the North East Himanta Biswa Sarma held strategy meetings with Ram Madhav in Guwahati.
But why is the BJP that swept to power in 2016, uprooting the Gogoi government, going gung ho so early? A BJP National Secretary told IANS without wishing to be named, “BJP takes every election seriously, even in a state where the party is not a major player. Assam is a key state in the North East. The call for ‘Mission 100’ was given well before and it’s natural that we huddle and go to achieve it. That’s what sets the BJP apart from the other parties.”
However, the BJP state leadership will tell you that the party is mindful if not concerned about the recent announcement of an almost certain pre-poll alliance between the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Congress. Even on Friday, Das tweeted, “In front of our dedicated karyakartas, no alliance/new party stands as a factor of hindrance”, hinting at the coming together of the 2 parties.
Also, unlike 2016 when voters were divided on religious lines, this time the voting preference is likely to be on socio-cultural lines. With strong opposition to the CAA, which sparked violence on Assam streets, the ‘Assamese way of life’ has been a dominating discourse. Though the Centre claimed it took adequate measures to safeguard that, after a gap of months, this August Dibrugarh saw the powerful All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) taking out a motorcycle rally, protesting against the CAA once again. “Aami namanua (We won’t accept CAA) resonated once again.
No wonder, it changes the way Assam votes and that may not be to the advantage of the BJP. Understandably, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal passed two crucial legislations this week that will help address that concern — Birangana Sati Sadhani Rajyik Vishwavidyalaya Bill and The Assam Heritage (Tangible) protection, preservation, conservation and Maintenance Bill. The first one is a university to commemorate the last queen of the Chutia dynasty, Sati Sadhani, according to Assam Education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
However, Phanindra Nath Sarma dismisses that BJP is concerned.
He told IANS, “We are not afraid of any alliance. It will help Cong-AIUDF get the Muslim votes. But it also means that Hindu votes will come our way.”
(Anindya Banerjee can be contacted at [email protected])