2006 Assam Election and Regional Implications

U A Shimray

For the last ten years, Indian democracy experienced coalition governments ruling at the Centre as well as States. The fall of National Front pave way for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s first inning in the Central in the late 1990s. BJP’s entry in power “awkward” the secular forces. However, the voters were not impress with the highhanded slogan “Shining India” in 2004 Lok Sabha election. Whereas, there is no shinning things in many part of the country even the rural Temples are not electrify. A sudden come back of India’s oldest political party, the Congress to the power in the last 14th Lok Sabha election is one surprise package of Indian voters. Not only Congress but also a considerable number of Left Parties make it to the Parliament. Indian voters are ready for surprises. The so-called “Exit Poll” is no longer a reliable technique to predict election results [Different sources of exit poll results underestimate Congress party in the last Lok Sabha election]. The Psyphologists are having tough time to analyse the unpredictable Indian votes. 

Indeed, up coming State’s election would be one tough political “test” of all the political parties including both regional and national level. For instance, regional “hegemony” in Tamil Nadu would be hard to crack situation for the national parties. The AIADMK and DMK and its respective allies are in the mood of settling of scores. Assam’s election could be tricky if the ruling Congress is not tactful.

Assam and Regional Impact…

Assam’s CM Tarun Gogoi remarks, “I’ve never seen a more nervous opposition like the AGP in my entire political career.” Congress Government is optimistic of coming back to power. Hitherto, the situation is somehow risky and tricky. At the moment, “all is not well” in Assam Congress. Since the election of PCC President last year there is intense dissident mood going on in the inner ring. A “compromise package” that aims to appease the Congress workers, Chief Minister, PCC President Bhubaneshwar Kalita and Union Minister Shri Mohan Dev issue the name of the candidates. 

The result omitted twelve sitting MLAs including one Minister. Several heavy-weight Congress men were denied of election tickets and they went rampant protests. In subsequent, many join AGP, NCP and BJP to fight fellow Congressmen. Such circumstances inevitably divide loyalties of the foot soldiers’ vote. One has to bear in mind is that in the region loyalties changed overnight. Out of 120 members, 42 persons are “new faces” (that is 35%) including those who do not get ticket in the last 2001 election. No doubt, Congress had studied the performance of the sitting MLAs and even the reason of omission was revealed. However, bringing new faces in the electoral politics is sometimes dangerous if not tactful enough. 

The divided house of Asom Gana Parishar (AGP) and its allies and the Assam United Democratic Front are working hard to bring back regional “hegemony” in the state. And this regional arrangement is backed by national parties like NCP, CPM, et al so, the present poll alliance is simply not for granted. The strong backing from other parties endorses “good” investment with tactful intervention. In fact, this is a major challenge for the Congress in Assam. 

Trouble state like Assam issue is numerous and sensitive. Certain crucial factors will play major role like incumbency/anti-incumbency wave of Tarun’s performance, controversial IMDT issue, Bodo, NC Hill and Karb imbroglio. Insurgency interference in the election process is inevitable. Other important issue is personal profile of the Congress ticket holders (omission and new faces).

Manipur

Earlier, the political situation of the region was more or less depended on the political situation in the Central. However, today, coalition system seems to be more workable moreover, it is strengthened by the enactment of Anti-Defection Law. No doubt, the result of Assam Election would be the “acid test” of the Manmohan Singh’s Government. Also, the outcome of the Assam election would have serious implications in the regional politics. Now, Manipur’s 9th General Election is round the corner (Between November and February 2007). Now, negotiation has started for the regional allies in Manipur. Many smaller local parties are planning to come together to take on the ruling Congress. For instance, like Federal party of Manipur (FPM), Manipur People party (MPP), DRPP, Manipur State Congress Party (MSCP). Like Assam, the national parties like NCP, RJD, JD (U), et al may join regional forces, and their intervention cannot be taken as easy thing.      

A short live 7th Manipur Legislative Assembly was dominated by the local parties like MSCP, FPM and BJP. The number elected under the Indian National Congress was only 11 (eleven) including 4 tribal MLAs. The 2001 June incident over the issue of Naga Ceasefire “without territorial limits” and political instability subsequently dissolved the Assembly. The 8th Manipur Legislative Assembly General Election 2002, INC make a surprise return to the power with a total number of 20 out of 60 members. However, a major contribution came from the tribal areas securing 50% of 10 members out 20 Reserved A/C (4 from Churachandpur district, 3 from Senapati district, 2 from Tamenglong district and 1 Ukhrul district). Congress seems to favour in the hills (tribals) in the last election.

O. Ibobi’s SPF Government is incredibly set for a full term and will be facing election soon. However, Assam like scenario in ticket distribution is inevitable. Unlike 2002 elections, this time many would seek for INC’s ticket. Even now rumors are spreading like wild fire who will be the front runner. In the last election, there are 44 “new faces” (including come back members). However, more than 50% new faces in the 2002 election do not imply that news faces are doing well but the impact of 2001 June incident done substantial damage to the politics. Another factor is direct involvement of Naga insurgency in the electoral process. 

One inconsistent political situation in Manipur’s Congress party is non-commitment to the principles, over enthusiastic to the partisan manipulation and “keep changing candidate” factor. For the Congress, ticket distribution indeed crucial however; to make success in electoral process candidate’s credential, performance and charismatic profile would be pre-requisite. Today, voters become cleverer. So, the ruling Congress cannot be over-estimated of coming back to power. Moreover, there is anti-incumbency wave is going on. Corruption is mounting, forgery is increasing and law and order is almost at breaking point. The present trend of corruption and anti-incumbency is a gain for regional forces. May be in this coming election, the visible work of SPF government would be one crucial factor. Indeed, a tiny state like Manipur even one number can make big differences in power formation.