Poll fever grips Assam: development, terrorism main campaign issues

February 5th, 2009 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyGuwahati, Feb 5 (IANS) While development is the campaign buzzword for the ruling Congress in Assam, the opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP)-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine is gearing up to give a tough fight on the issues of terrorism and recession in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.”For us, development would be the main issue, besides peace, solving the unemployment problem, and steps we took for economic progress of the state,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS.

In the 2004 parliamentary elections, the Congress party won nine of the 14 Lok Sabha seats from the state. The AGP and the BJP won two seats each while an independent candidate bagged one seat.

“We would be able to win even more seats this time,” Gogoi said, exuding confidence.

But despite the upbeat mood in the Congress camp, it may not be as rosy as it appears for the April-May elections. The AGP and the BJP have announced a “100-day war to capture power” by harping on the themes of terrorism and economic recession, besides Congress bashing.

In the past year, about 200 people have been killed in nearly 50 terror attacks in Assam. There are two major separatist groups fighting for independence in the state - the United Liberation Front of Asom and the National Democratic Front of Bodoland.

“The AGP and BJP votes were divided in the last elections. If you put together the percentage of votes polled by the two parties in the 2004 elections, then it gives an idea of what we can do this time,” BJP national vice president and former central minister Bijoya Chakraborty said.

In the 2004 polls, the Congress polled 35.07 percent of the total 10 million votes cast in the state, while the AGP-BJP votes counted together amounted to about 43 percent. There are an estimated 15 million voters in Assam with a population of 26 million people.

As the poll arithmetic continues, a third front has emerged in Assam with the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), the Left parties and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

The AUDF, a minority-based party formed six months before the 2006 assembly elections, had managed to win 10 seats then.

“We have to challenge the Congress and the BJP, and that is the reason we decided on a third alternative in Assam,” AUDF leader Badruddin Ajmal told IANS.

“The third front shall contest all the 14 Lok Sabha seats from the state.”

Although no political formation has emerged as the frontrunner so far, the AGP-BJP combine is surely expected to give the Congress a run for its money in the Lok Sabha polls.

(Zarir Hussain can be contacted at zarir.h@ians.in)

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