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A Vote For Peace, Progress and Stability


wasbir hussain
DIRECTOR, Centre for Development and Peace Studies

It has clearly been a vote for peace, stability and development. The Congress in Assam, under a plain speaking leader Tarun Gogoi, has created electoral history by making a hat-trick. Gogoi is all set to become the State’s longest-serving Chief Minister. The regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the state’s main opposition party, too has created history of sorts by being routed for the third time in a row, raising questions about the very relevance of regionalism in the Northeast. Two things need to be analyzed---the reasons for the Congress’ thumping victory and the causes for the AGP’s rout. The people’s total rejection of the AGP is indicated by the fact that its president Chandra Mohan Patowary has had a humiliating defeat, while another leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta was defeated in the Samuguri constituency.

The peace and development mantra of the Congress and Chief Minister Gogoi’s clean image has paid off with the party breaking its 2001 record of winning 71 seats and securing an absolute majority in this election.
This has not come as a surprise because the Congress party in Assam was absolutely free of any dissident activity and the party focused only on development and launched a number of welfare schemes starting from giving away bicycles to poor girl students, computers to meritorious students, and free healthcare for the poor to name a few.

The Government’s massive pro-poor schemes have given dividends. Another factor that has been proved, with the Congress getting absolute majority, is that corruption at the Centre with the 2G scam and Commonwealth Games scam, as well as corruption charges leveled by the combined opposition in Assam about the Rs 1,000 crore scam in North Cachar Hills district, have had no impact in the state particularly because the Congress government itself has asked for an inquiry into these financial irregularities.

On the other hand, the AGP’s flip-flop on ties with the BJP, its one-time ally, did lead to a lot of confusion among voters. Besides, there always have been huge ego clashes within the party leadership, with insiders still not sure whether it would be its president Chandra Mohan Patowary or legislature party leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta who would be chief minister in case it were to get the numbers in the 126-member Assembly. Moreover, the AGP was trying to win the election on a negative campaign because it most focused on attacking the Congress. Among the few positive point the AGP made in the run up to the polls was its promise to implement the Assam Accord, but it did not strike a chord. The AGP actually came to power in 1985 riding on the massive anti-Bangladesh campaign. But when the AGP was in power for 10 years over two terms, it could expel only about 1500 illegal migrants.

The AGP’s track record in implementing Assam Accord was not very good. So this time when the party resolved to implement the Accord in letter and spirit, nobody was bothered and it did not stir anyone’s imagination. Besides, its governance track record earlier was average and this is something that the voters this time were conscious about. So if the Congress has won this time it is basically on its track record of development, peace and stability.

Another point to be noted is, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s ability to get the major faction of the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) to the negotiating table. This is a big factor that has restored the confidence of the common men as well as the business community. Yes, the Congress Government also succeeded in getting five other insurgent groups to enter into a ceasefire and start peace talks. At the end of the day, a blunt Tarun Gogoi, who believes in calling a spade a spade, is a victorious man today, promising to call the shots in Assam for another term. The state is now presented with a situation where the nascent All India United Democratic Front has emerged as the main opposition party.