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BJP expands base in Assam

Several Asom Gana Parishad leaders have joined the BJP in the last one year.

NAVTAN KUMAR  New Delhi | 10th Aug 2013

he BJP is gradually expanding its sphere of influence in Assam by attracting Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leaders and workers. Several AGP leaders have joined the BJP in the last one year, the latest being Atul Bora, who was one of the founding members of the AGP and a prominent face of the Assam agitation. Bora, who was a minister in the erstwhile Prafulla Mahanta government, joined the BJP last month. Another leader, Sarbanand Sonowal, a prominent youth face of the AGP, joined the BJP last year and is now the president of the state unit.

"Besides, many state, district and block level leaders have joined the party while many other have expressed their intention to join the BJP. The AGP is becoming irrelevant in Assam politics and BJP is all set to grab AGP's space. We are in an advantageous position now," said Prodyut Bora, a member of the BJP's National Executive.

In the Guwahati Municipal Corporation election in June, the BJP got 11 out of 31 seats to come second after the Congress (19), which is running the state government. The AGP, which was a major force in Assam till recently, got just one seat. Interestingly, in two municipal wards, the BJP lost by just four and nine votes, whereas in two others, the difference was just less than 100.

The AGP, interestingly, was once a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance. The two parties contested the Lok Sabha elections in 2009 together. The BJP's vote share was 17.21%, whereas that of the AGP was 12.61%. Assam has 14 Lok Sabha seats, four of which are with the BJP.

In 2011, the AGP pulled out of the NDA and contested the Assembly elections on its own. The AGP got 10 of the state's 126 seats, while the BJP got five. The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) of Badruddin Ajmal, with its huge Muslim following, emerged as the principal Opposition party with 18 seats.

"We hope to consolidate our position and the next election will see a direct contest between the Congress and the BJP in most constituencies," said Bora. When asked about Ajmal's AIUDF, Bora said, "AIUDF is a factor but its hold is limited to Muslims. Therefore, it cannot be major force in the state." "The BJP is focusing a lot on this region," he added.

The BJP is planning to raise the Bangladeshi infiltration issue in a big way ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections. "There has been an extraordinary growth in the number of Muslim population in the last few years. In 1971, Muslims were 24.5% of the total state population. This went up to 33% as per the 2011 Census. What explains this demographic profile? This is not a case of family size growth. Instead it's a result of infiltration (from Bangladesh)," said Bora, an IIM-Ahmedabad graduate, who has been national convenor of the BJP's IT cell.

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