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4 months on, bypolls pose litmus test for Assam government

| MANOJ ANAND
Published : Oct 21, 2016, 1:38 am IST
Updated : Oct 21, 2016, 1:38 am IST

Amidst the widening differences in the rank and file of the BJP-led coalition government in Assam, the byepolls for North Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituency is going to be an acid test.

Amidst the widening differences in the rank and file of the BJP-led coalition government in Assam, the byepolls for North Lakhimpur Lok Sabha constituency is going to be an acid test.

Though, Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal deny reports of differences in the ruling coalition emphatically, two-time chief minister and heavy weight Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta’s call to unite indigenous people against the Central government’s move to grant citizenship to Hindus may cost them dearly in the November-19 byepolls.

The ruling alliance is already facing protest from tribal groups, which is not only opposing the move to grant Schedule Tribe status to six communities but has also announced a series of agitation, including bandh and blockades.

It is not only the AGP leaders, who are gripped with the feeling of being marginalised after the BJP’s electoral victory, but also the leaders of Bodoland People Front are unhappy over the way pre-elections promises of New Delhi remained unaddressed.

Mr Mahanta, who has been marginalised after the victory of BJP-led alliance, has been critical of the Centre government as well as state government policies.

While calling indigenous people to unite, Mr Mahanta told this newspaper that the indigenous people of Assam would have to suffer economically and politically if the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which aims to provide citizenship to foreigners, is converted into an Act. He pointed out that the Central government Bill is totally against the spirit of the Assam Accord, which states that all the foreigners, who came to Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1971, should be detected and deported from the state.

It significant that BJP’s victory in the recently concluded assembly elections was attributed to their success in injecting a new combination of Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Hagrama Mahiliary. If it falls apart before the bye-elections, it is bound to dent the winning prospect of the BJP as Congress, on the other hand, is gearing up to extract maximum political mileage from the by-election.

A victory in Lakhimpur would be a big moral booster for the party after its crushing defeat in the assembly elections.

Winning the by-election has also become a prestige issue for Sonowal who vacated this seat after becoming the chief minister and slightest drop in victory margin from the 2014 Lok Sabha election would be seen as his failure to protect his constituency by his detractors.