Sarbananda Sonowal and Tarun Gogoi.

Nava Thakuria is a Northeast India journalist, based in Guwahati, who contributes to NewsBlaze and various media outlets throughout the world. Nava is also secretary of the Journalists' Forum Assam.

An anti-incumbency wave against the 15 year old Congress government in Dispur, loud assurances over curbing Bangladeshi (read Muslim) migrants and fast-paced development were three of the major things that influenced the electorate of Assam in northeast India to make the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) victorious in the recently concluded State Assembly polls.

After the poll debacles in Delhi and Bihar (also in West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry & Kerala Assembly elections), Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally found a reason to smile in the electorate of Assam, where the saffron party won seven seats in the last Parliamentary elections, gave thumbs up to his party along with its alliances, and also an absolute majority.

Assam, unlike many elections in the last three decades of turmoil, witnessed a peaceful electoral battle for its 126 members State Legislative Assembly with two phases of polling on 4 & 11 April, where altogether  1,064 candidates tried their luck. Moreover, for the first time two national (also powerful & resourceful) political parties with a few regional parties joined in the polls. State voters exercised their franchises with as high as 83 percent (out of 1.92 crore) turnout to overthrow the ruling Congress.

The BJP, along with Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) won a convincing victory with  86 legislators. Congress was restricted to only 26 seats (the party won 78 seats in 2011 Assembly elections). The electorate with the high influence of the popular Modi wave not only ended the era of Tarun Gogoi’s uninterrupted 15 year rule, but also defeated a number of Congress veterans.

Sarbananda Sonowal and Tarun Gogoi.
Sarbananda Sonowal and Tarun Gogoi. Photo: Nava Thakuria/NewsBlaze.

Once known as a party of Brahman and Bania (trader), the BJP alone succeeded in winning 60 seats, whereas it had only five legislators in the previous Assembly elections. Energized as the BJP’s alliance partner, the AGP won 14 seats (10 seats in 2011 polls) and  the BPF succeeded in 12 seats (same as last Assembly polls, though it was with Congress that time).

With the Congress, the other losing party was the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which only succeeded in 13 constituencies in contrast to 18 seats in the 2011 polls. A known sympathizer to Bangladeshi migrants in Assam, Moulana Ajmal, who is a Parliamentarian from Dhubri Lok Sabha constituency, also lost from South Salmara constituency.

Some of the important winners include outgoing chief minister Tarun Gogoi, Assembly speaker Pranab Gogoi, BJP’s chief ministerial candidate Sarbananda Sonowal,  AGP president Atul Bora, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, former State ministers Brindaban Goswami,  Pradip Hazarika, Chandra Mohan Patowary, Phani Bhusan Choudhury, and former All Assam Students’ Union leader Tapan Gogoi.

All four seats in greater Guwahati area were won by BJP candidates namely  Atul Bora (senior) from Dispur constituency, Siddhartha Bhattacharya from Guwahati East, Ramendra Narayan Kalita from Guwahati West and Himanta Biswa Sarma from Jalukbari constituency. Guwahati’s BJP Parliamentarian Bijaya Chakrabarty’s daughter Suman Haripriya also won from Hajo constituency.

Among the prominent losers from the Congress were former Union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, former State ministers Pradyut Bordoloi, Gautam Roy, Sarat Barkataki, Bharat Chandra Narah, Atowa Munda, Chandan Kumar Sarkar, Nurzamal Sarkar, Tanka Bahadur Rai,  Prithibi Majhi, Bishmita Gogoi,  Ajit Singh, Siddique Ahmed, and Pranati Phukan.

Congress veteran Gogoi, who won from Titabor constituency, accepted the defeat of his party and affirmed to play the role of constructive opposition in the  Assembly.

PM Modi  thanked the people of Assam for helping his party to win and commented that the Assam election win for BJP was ‘historic by all standards’.

The saffron party leaders also promised that it would urgently seal the border with Bangladesh, complete the NRC without a single illegal migrant, clear a huge volume of lands that belonged to Vaishnavite Satras under encroachment, initiate all round development with 24×7 power and water supply, ensure 100 percent irrigation coverage of arable lands, offer employment to 25 lakh youths, and withdraw oral interviews for 3rd & 4th category government  jobs in the State etc. It now expects all possible help and cooperation from the Centre to the new government at Dispur under the leadership of Sonowal.