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Assembly Elections in Assam: The Wait is On

POSTED ON 3 MAY 2011

ARUNAV GOSWAMI
ResearchER, Centre for Development and Peace Studies

In Assam, there has been no looking back for the Congress since it came to power after the assembly elections in 2001. The party has been in power since then, with Tarun Gogoi as the Chief Minister for two consecutive terms. In the 2001 Legislative Assembly elections, Congress had won 71 seats, securing 40% of the total votes cast. The main opposition party in the state, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), which was in power before the elections, secured 20 seats with a vote share of 20% of the total votes cast. The other major political party contesting the election, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) secured 8 seats with 9% vote share.

In the next state assembly elections in 2006, the seat tally of the Congress fell to 53. The percentage of votes cast in its favour also declined to 31%. The AGP and BJP won 24 and 10 seats, respectively, gaining a marginal increase in their number of seats. This election saw a new party coming into the fray, changing the voting patterns in some districts of the state. This party was the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) [It is now All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF)]. The AUDF won 10 seats in the elections and secured 7% of the total votes cast. With its performance, it established itself as a force to be reckoned with in Assam’s political arena.

In April 2011, the state of Assam again went to the polls. At present the whole state is eagerly waiting for the results of this election. The results will be out on May 13, 2011. Till then nobody can say what could be the outcome of this election. At this juncture, it is worthwhile to have a look at some of the trends concerning the last two state assembly elections in Assam in 2001 and 2006.

In the 2001 elections, Congress had won 71 seats out of the 126 contested. The AGP and the BJP had a seat sharing agreement and they had fielded candidates in 77 and 46 constituencies, respectively. Out of these, AGP managed to win 20 and BJP won 8 seats. The Congress secured 40% of the votes of the total number of votes cast exceeding the combined votes cast in favour of AGP (20%) and BJP (9%). The Congress formed the government that year with Tarun Gogoi as the Chief Minister.

The next Legislative Assembly elections in Assam were held in 2006. The Congress this time won 18 seats less, ending with a tally of 53 seats. The AGP and BJP increased their seat tally, though marginally. This time they didn’t have a pre-poll alliance. AGP won four more seats compared to 2001 elections, ending with a tally of 24 seats and BJP won 2 more seats, ending with a tally of 10 seats. Congress managed to gain 31% of votes cast in their favour whereas AGP and BJP secured 15% and 9% of the votes, indicating declining vote share for all the three parties.

This time around, a few new political parties also contested the elections and had a considerable affect on the voting pattern in the state. One of these was the Maulana Badruddin Ajmal- led AUDF. The AUDF won 10 seats in the elections and was runners up in 11 constituencies. It secured 7% of the votes cast and took a considerable chunk out of the minority votes from the Congress. AUDF emerged as a strong competitor to Congress in Nagaon and Dhubri districts, which was earlier a Congress stronghold. In two constituencies of Dhubri (Dhubri & Salmara South) and in three constituencies of Nagaon (Roha, Dhing, Hojai), the AUDF candidate placed the Congress candidate in the second spot. All these five seats were won by Congress in the 2001 elections.

The two other new parties, which had an affect on the voting pattern in the state in the 2006 elections, were the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) and the Asom Gana Parishad (Pragatishil). The BPF was formed of the members of the erstwhile militant group of Assam, Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which had signed an accord with the government in 2003. The BPF won 11 seats in the elections and joined the Congress to form the government in the state, with Tarun Gogoi again as the Chief Minister for the second term. The AGP (P) was formed by the former Chief Minister of Assam, Prafulla Mahanta after he left the AGP. The party, though, won only one seat in the elections out of the 93 contested, it managed to deplete the vote bank of the AGP in many constituencies. The AGP (P) later merged with the AGP in 2008.

The recent state assembly elections were held in the state in two phases, on 4th April and 11th April, 2011. This is the 13th Legislative Assembly elections in Assam. The number of registered voters in Assam is 1,81,86,123. Out of these, 94,00,972 (51.7%) were male and 87,85,151 (48.3%) were female. The voter turnout in the first phase of the elections was 73.04% with Lakhimpur district witnessing highest voter turnout of 79.57%, whereas Dima Hasao district witnessed the lowest turnout with 55.04% voters casting their vote. In the second phase of elections, the voter turnout was 78.6% with Nalbari district recording highest voter turnout of 78.31% and Kamrup (Metro) registering the lowest voter turnout of 62.01%. Overall, 76.03% of the voters cast their vote in the elections.

The number of candidates contesting in the first phase of elections was 485. Out of this, 38 were women candidates. In the second phase of elections, 496 candidates, including 47 women, contested for the 64 assembly seats. Overall, 981 candidates contested in the Assam Legislative Assembly elections in 2011. Women candidates constituted 8.7% of the total contesting candidates (85 out of 981).

The Congress was the only political party to field candidates in all the 126 constituencies of the state. This was followed by the BJP with 120 candidates and Asom Gana Parishad with 104 candidates. The AIUDF fielded 78 candidates whereas the BPF fielded 29 candidates. The Trinamul Congress too has fielded 102 candidates in the elections. There are 267 independent candidates also contesting the elections.

The political scenario has been changing in the state over the years. There has been rise and falls and victories and defeats. Again the time has come to witness some more of such occasions. The results of the 2011 Assam Legislative Assembly elections are due on May 13, 2011. Till then, a few questions will be looming large in the minds of the people. Who will form the next government? Will it be a coalition government? Whether Tarun Gogoi will be the Chief Minister for the third term? Will the AGP and BJP form a post-poll alliance? What would be the role of the AIUDF and the BPF? These are the questions which will be answered only after the election results are out.