Congress claims it’s unfazed by AGP-BJP poll pact (Lead, Superseding earlier story)

March 6th, 2009 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata PartyGuwahati, March 6 (IANS) Even as supporters and leaders of the regional Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Assam are celebrating their poll alliance, the ruling Congress party insists that it is unaffected by the opposition pact.

On Thursday, BJP announced a pact under which it will contest eight of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam during the general elections next month, while the AGP would field candidates in six constituencies.

“The AGP-BJP alliance would surely be able to wrest quite a number of seats from the Congress in next month’s parliamentary elections in Assam,” AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary told IANS.

In the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress won nine seats. Another was won by an independent who later supported the ruling party. In the same elections, the AGP and the BJP won two seats each.

The Congress had polled 35.07 percent votes in the 2004 elections, while the BJP had cornered 22.94 percent votes and the AGP 19.95 percent.

“The anti-Congress votes were divided in the 2004 polls and with the two parties coming together this time, it would be a different equation altogether,” senior BJP leader Palit Bora said.

But the Congress is unfazed by the AGP-BJP tie up.

“It would be too simplistic to think that the AGP-BJP vote share in the 2004 elections put together is an indication for winning polls. In fact, the AGP’s image and its regional character have already got a beating after its alliance with the BJP,” said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

“We are happy that the two parties have joined hands. It was the same parties that tied up in the 2001 assembly elections in Assam and faced a humiliating defeat and we came to power,” he added.

Leaders of the AGP and the BJP after the rout in the 2001 assembly elections blamed each other for the poll debacle.

“The AGP is the main opposition party in Assam and despite that they gave away prestigious seats like Guwahati and Jorhat to the BJP. Even now the AGP is ready to play second fiddle in the Lok Sabha polls to the BJP. What else is left for the AGP now,” the chief minister said.

BJP president Rajnath Singh Thursday announced at a joint press conference with the AGP in New Delhi: “We would be the senior partner in the Lok Sabha polls and in the 2010 assembly elections the AGP would be the senior partner.”

Political analysts feel Muslim voters in Assam - 30 percent of the 17 million voters in the state - may distance themselves from the AGP due to its tie-up with the BJP.

“The Muslim supporters of the AGP would now have no option other than supporting the Congress party in the elections,” said A. Rahman, a college teacher.

“Even in the 2001 assembly elections when the AGP-BJP had an alliance, the pattern of voting was the same with the Muslim AGP supporters siding with the Congress,” he added.

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