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Ground report: Is AGP trying to ride on PM Modi's popularity in Assam?

Kunal Majumder | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 6:03 IST

It is not every day that the Prime Minister of the country visits Bokakhat. And when he does, the occasion is nothing short of a carnival. All the shops are closed and the residents eat their lunch earlier than usual. No one seems to know when the PM will arrive. Some say 1 PM, others say 3 PM. The crowds begin to trickle in after lunch. The town, once an Asom Gono Parishad stronghold, has seen some massive security arrangements in the build-up to the event.

The AGP-BJP candidate for Bokakhat is AGP president, Atul Bora - the man responsible for pushing for an alliance with the saffron party despite serious objections by senior party leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. The parties do not see eye-to-eye on issues like the right to citizenship for Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants and the Assam Accord.

In a conversation with this reporter, Mahanta first tried to brush these aside these issues as post-election matters. However, when pressed further, he claimed that the party leadership led by Bora had entered into an agreement with the BJP and said that these questions should be answered by them, not him.

Today, however, both Mahanta and Bora shared the stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he appealed to the voters for a two-third majority for the alliance in the upcoming assembly elections. But this is easier said than done, at least in the Kaziranga area.

It remains to be seen if the massive crowd that gathered to watch PM Modi in Bokakhat would actually translate into votes for the AGP.

The rally, in itself, is a testament to the downfall of the AGP - a party that once ruled Assam. The massive stage was bedecked in saffron and green and while one could spot a few AGP flags in the crowd, the fact remains that the massive crowd had only gathered to watch PM Modi.

The AGP, which was a senior partner in the last elections is now struggling to survive. In the last assembly polls, it won nine seats - five more than the BJP. Ironically, BJP's chief ministerial candidate Sarbandna Sonowal is a former AGP senior leader who had quit the party over major differences with the existing leadership.

Ground visuals

"This is like Durga Puja," said one of the attendants as he made his way through the grounds. Bhubaneswar Saikia, 70, is standing at what is approximately the centre of the rally ground when we approach him. Are you going to vote for Modi's party? we ask. "I'm not sure. They are all the same," he replies.

Saikia goes on speak about how Bokakhat has been ignored by all political parties. We manage to catch up with a BJP supporter, Dinesh Sood, 35, who spoke about the usual party line of 'parivartan' (change).

As we moved away from political activists and approached more of the regular voters about their views, many remained noncommittal on the question - Will you support AGP because you came to Modi's rally? Some spoke on record but refused to take sides, while others, who first gave candid responses, quickly walked away upon realising they were speaking to the media.

- Edited by Blassy Boben
First published: 27 March 2016, 11:29 IST
 
Kunal Majumder @kunalmajumder

Editor for Speed News aka Catch Live and Operations at Catch, Kunal enjoys measuring his life in numbers. Of his 30 years of life, 12 have been spent working, 9 of them in journalism. The remaining 3 were spent in 2 call centres, talking to British and Australians about insurance and cellphones. In his journalistic capacity, Kunal has worked at 3 publications and headed 2 online teams. The '3' includes Images Multimedia, Tehelka and DNA. The '2' includes Tehelka and DNA. Catch is Kunal's 6th workplace, where he will head his 3rd team as speed news editor. As a reporter, he won 2 awards - Statesman Award for Rural Reporting and UNFPA-Laadli Award for Gender Sensitivity. That's his story in Prime Numbers (a section on this site from which he's taken inspiration).

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