MLAs want changes at the grassroots, but the rigidity of the party brass has left them with no choice but to look elsewhere.
New Delhi: The Assam unit of the Congress is in disarray and is facing internal challenges to keep its legislative party united as MLAs dissatisfied with the party leadership. They believe that the party is unable to come up with a proper strategy for the Guwahati municipal elections that are scheduled for April 2022. In the Assembly elections in 2021, Congress could not win a single seat in Guwahati, while BJP won three constituencies: East Guwahati, Dispur and Jalukbari. The remaining West Guwahati was won by the Asom Gana Parishad. In the recent bypolls too Congress fielded five candidates but returned with a blank. All this may spell trouble for the Congress in the municipal elections.
And now there is a buzz that at least four Congress MLAs may switch to the BJP during the Rongali Bihu festival in mid-April. “In fact, more may come to the BJP because there are many MLAs who are unable to iron out the differences with the Congress leadership,” said a BJP leader in the know. One Congress MLA, Rupjyoti Kurmi, left the party in June 2021 to join the BJP.
The immediate challenge that the party is facing is the consequential influence that Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has on Congress leaders. Sarma, who himself left the Congress in 2015 to join the BJP, has been breaking the back of the party in the state over the years by ensuring defections and by creating a political space for such leaders in the ruling party.
Dr Dibyajyoti Dutta, Associate Professor of Political Science in Dibrugarh University told this newspaper: “If Himanta Biswa Sarma approaches a particular person in Congress nobody would say no, because of the good connections he has with all Congress leaders. He has a political strategy in place and he makes his moves very cautiously.”
According to a former Congress MLA, the party leadership has failed to convince the unhappy MLAs that the party has a future. These MLAs want changes in the conduct of the party at the grassroots, but the rigidity of the party brass has left them with no choice but to look elsewhere.
Political observers believe “With Himanta Biswa Sarma in power, Congress will have to wait for the next 15 to 20 years to come to power in Assam.”
Recently, Congress MLA from Raha, Sashi Kanta Das pledged support to the BJP government in Assam, saying his move was a step taken “for the sake of development”, signalling that he could be the one of the four to switch to the BJP.
Congress general secretary and media chairperson of the Assam unit, Bobbeeta Sharma told The Sunday Guardian, “When Tarun Gogoi was the CM, no leader had said Opposition MLAs cannot get development funds. It is his right to get development funds. He (Himanta Biswa Sarma) is the CM of the whole state and not of BJP MLAs only. What is stopping him (Sashi Kanta Das) to get development funds? This is nothing but to create confusion among the people.”