Migrant to Mainstream
Debakanta Barua’s ‘ Alis’ cannot be taken for granted anymore. Comprising 5.5 million of Assam’s 18.5 million voters in 2011, migrant Muslims largely aligned with AIUDF, amid dubious and conflicting signals from Chief Minister Gogoi ahead of the 2011 Assembly elections. The fledgling party, with a small but impressive debut of 10 MLAs in 2006, was catapulted to the political centrestage in 2011 with an even more convincing tally of 18, making it the second largest party in the Legislative Assembly.
As a consequence, the Congress’s share of migrant Muslim votes plummeted from 36 per cent in 2006 to just 28 per cent in 2011. The party, however, polled 67 per cent of the ‘ coolie’ or tea garden workers’ votes across 13 key constituencies. Gogoi’s ‘ son- of- thesoil’ stance also won him new friends among Assamese Muslims as 55 per cent of them voted for the Congress in 2011 as against 39 per cent in 2006.
While Gogoi appears unperturbed and content in his third successive term, AIUDF’s ascendancy worries Congressmen in Guwahati and Delhi. They fear the party could emerge as a major challenge to the Congress’s domination in Assam. Nagaon- born Ajmal won both South Salmara and Jamunamukh Assembly seats in the 2011 polls. The AIUDF chief had earlier demonstrated his growing influence with a record win from Dhubri in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.
Unlike Gogoi, many Congressmen are in touch with Ajmal, aware that any further polarisation of Muslim vote could change the equation in Assam. “If Gogoi continues, we will win only in Jorhat and Dibrugarh in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls,” says a Congress minister.
Others, too, are troubled at the prospect. AASU chief adviser Samujjal Bhattacharya explains his worst nightmare: “If the influx is allowed to con-