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BJP makes more inroads into Assam: will AGP join the fray?

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 16 July 2016, 16:17 IST
What are the odds?
  • There are speculations that AGP might join the BJP
  • No formal announcement have been made so far
  • The AGP faction that might join the BJP is lead by Atul Bora

Speculations are rife in Assam that a section of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) may formally join the BJP. While officially, nothing has been announced, realising the sensitivities of coalition dharma, within the BJP there is a belief that such a move will not only help consolidate BJP's presence but also aid in smooth functioning of the state government.

The AGP faction led by Atul Bora may join the BJP, Catch has learnt.

It is this faction which was given precedence over the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta group in the party, when portfolios were allotted in the Sarbananda Sonowal led government.

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

While Bora, the president of the AGP was allotted departments like Agriculture, Horticulture and Food Processing, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary, Urban Development and Town and Country Planning, Keshab Mahanta was allotted Water Resources Department, besides Science and Technology and Information Technology departments.

Both these leaders were instrumental in forging the alliance pre-poll alliance with the BJP.

Trouble within

AGP leaders like Prafulla Mahanta have been creating trouble for the BJP-led government. On Friday, he joined the Opposition protest against the auctioning of oil fields in Dispur, a decision which was taken by the Centre.

The decision, which has evoked protests from a large section of the Assamese political spectrum, has AGP leaders like Bora and Keshab Mahanta, who are part of the government, on board.

AGP and the BJP are said to be at loggerheads on the issue of bringing in 127 items under the purview of value-added tax.

Divide and rule

There is a belief among the BJP strategists that breaking the AGP will also help them deal with contentious issues like giving citizenship rights to persecuted minorities refugees, lest they continue to hurt the state government.

AGP, which led the Assam Agitation against outsiders, has been bitterly opposing this move. While Bora and other leaders have repeatedly stated that the matter can be resolved with a dialogue with the ruling BJP, others like Prafulla Mahanta have been speaking out against this move.

Even after the pre-poll alliance was forged, Prafulla Mahanta had given multiple interviews elucidating how the BJP and the AGP have different agenda.

BJP, on the other hand, is learnt to be totally uncompromising on the question of giving citizenship rights to refugees.

Earlier, in the run-up to the elections, the BJP was successfully able to co-opt the issues of illegal immigration, stealing the thunder from the AGP, finally forcing them to enter into an alliance.

Shifting allegiances

Interestingly, both Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, and senior minister and strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma, too started their journey with the Assam movement.

Sonowal, who was with the AGP, had joined the BJP in 2012. Others like Chandramohan Patowary, another senior AGP leader and former president, too, had dumped the AGP for BJP in 2014. Hence, other senior figures joining the BJP, won't come as a surprise.

Moreover, the AGP is said to be totally dependent on the BJP, in the face of a massive resource crunch, and some sections of the BJP believe that the party had to part with a lot of resources, for 'five percent votes of the AGP'.

Meanwhile, BJP insiders say that a lot of Congressmen are also keen on joining the BJP.

"Only yesterday, a legislator from Baithalangsu in Karbi Anglong district, Mansing Rongpi, resigned from the party as well from the membership of the assembly to join BJP," says Pabitra Margherita, BJP spokesperson in the state.

"It is a significant thing since he decided to forego his membership of the legislative Assembly," Margherita says, while adding that even the general membership of the party has seen a massive increase with the numbers going up from a mere 2.5 lakh in 2013 to 27 lakh currently.

Another Congress leader, Gautam Roy, one of the prominent faces of the party in Barak valley, is also in talks with the BJP, insiders say.

Also Read: Will they or won't they? Congress-AIUDF give mixed signals on alliance

Also Read: Where lies the future for Assam's winning quartet

Also Read: No Grand Alliance in Assam: Congress & AIUDF fail to strike a deal

First published: 16 July 2016, 16:17 IST