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BJP-AGP pre-poll ties billed ‘battle of nerves’

New Delhi, Jan.28: Former allies BJP and AGP are locked in a battle of nerves, as they consider the pros and cons of renewing old ties in Assam ahead of the general elections.

Both parties are unsure if they should go ahead with a pre-poll alliance. The two parties have been going back and forth on the issue for some time now without much headway.

As the BJP gets increasingly confident about Narendra Modi’s candidacy for the prime ministership, a substantial section thinks the party can throw up a surprise in Assam, the way it is expected to in Uttar Pradesh.

Both parties are aware that they can take advantage of the anti-incumbency against the UPA’s 10 years at the Centre and of dissidence in the local unit against chief minister Tarun Gogoi. However, they are divided on the give-and-take.

“It is a battle of nerves,” a senior BJP leader said today. Another senior leader refused to even acknowledge that there was such a “proposal”.

If there is an alliance, the BJP wants the lion’s share of the 14 because it is confident of going it alone in Assam. This insistence, compounded with a divided opinion in the AGP, has resulted in a stalemate in backdoor meetings between the respective leaderships.

The AGP and BJP had fought the Assembly elections of 2001 together but broke away in 2010.

AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta is opposed to an alliance while Chandramohan Patowary is believed to be in favour of one. A BJP leader said there was also speculation that some AGP leaders may want to join the BJP. Be that as it may, the party may have to consider the consequences if this could give rise to insecurity among local BJP leaders like Sarbananda Sonowal, who was formerly with the AGP.

At least three senior BJP MPs, whose urban seats include minority vote banks, are in favour of an alliance with the AGP. While these leaders bank on the AGP’s acceptability among a section of minorities, it is also a reason for the AGP to fear an alliance. Some in the AGP feel that going with the BJP would take away the little minority support that they expect to get.

The BJP’s decision to go it alone has become difficult because of the possibility that the AGP could take away precious chunks of votes that it needs to win.

In the 2001 Assembly polls, the combine won 28 out of 126 seats as the Congress returned with a bang. In 2006, the BJP decided to go it alone but won just 10 seats. The two got back together for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls and won five of the 14 seats in Assam — four of them going to the BJP.

This time round, the situation is different with heavy anti-incumbency facing the UPA government and the BJP enthused with what it feels is a “Modi wave”.

A weakened AGP could manage just 10 seats in 2009 and the BJP just five seats as the Congress, under Tarun Gogoi, put up a scintillating performance.


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