ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Assam : Counting on Anti-Incumbency

The one factor driving electoral alliances across states where elections are due this summer is anti-incumbency and Assam is no exception. Its chief minister and leader of the AGP, Profulla Mahanta knows that, since 1985, the voters have oscillated between voting the AGP and the Congress to power. So, despite his veneer of confidence, he realises that it will be difficult to repeat his party’s victory in the 1996 elections. In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections the AGP had won a mere 17 per cent of the votes, representing a halving of the 34 per cent share it had secured in 1996. Not only will the AGP now have to contest on its own, with support only from some smaller parties such as the CPI and the United Peoples Party of Assam, the threeway contest among the AGP, the BJP and the Congress may work to its disadvantage.

The one factor driving electoral alliances across states where elections are due this summer is anti-incumbency and Assam is no exception. Its chief minister and leader of the AGP, Profulla Mahanta knows that, since 1985, the voters have oscillated between voting the AGP and the Congress to power. So, despite his veneer of confidence, he realises that it will be difficult to repeat his party’s victory in the 1996 elections. In the 1999 Lok Sabha elections the AGP had won a mere 17 per cent of the votes, representing a halving of the 34 per cent share it had secured in 1996. Not only will the AGP now have to contest on its own, with support only from some smaller parties such as the CPI and the United Peoples Party of Assam, the three-way contest among the AGP, the BJP and the Congress may work to its disadvantage.

Assam has seen little development during the five-year tenure of the AGP government. Mahanta claims that insurgency has seen a significant decline over the past decade, but the ULFA and other insurgent groups such as the ATF and the NDFB are able to strike at will at vulnerable groups. Panchayat elections that were due in the state in 1997 have been repeatedly put off on different pretexts. According to its rivals, the AGP which got a drubbing in the last two Lok Sabha elections dare not face the panchayat elections because the results will have a bearing on the assembly elections. Mahanta has also accused Pakistan’s ISI and alleged that attacks masterminded by it against the Hindi-speaking elements were meant to provoke retaliation and lead to the imposition of president’s rule in the state.

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