Assam polls: Congress, ally in 'friendly contest'

Guwahati, Nov 29 (IANS) The ruling Congress party and its coalition partner Bodoland People's Front (BPF) would put up candidates against each other in next year's elections to the Assam assembly although it would be a 'friendly contest'.

'We would be fielding our candidates in the Bodo heartland and same time the BPF would also be putting up their own candidates, but then it would be a friendly contest and our intention is to win the elections jointly,' senior Congress leader and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told IANS.

The Congress and the BPF have been election allies for the past two terms of the assembly. Elections are due in Assam in the next three to four months.

The BPF has 10 legislators in the 126-member house. The party has a strong political hold in the Bodo-dominated areas in western and northern Assam.

'As a national political party, we have to put up candidates in the Bodoland area, but then we would see to it that either of our candidates wins the polls,' Sarma said.

The BPF too is not averse to the idea of 'friendly fights'.

'We have absolutely no problems and are sure there would be no clash of interests in so far as winning the seats is concerned,' BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary said.

At a time when the Congress is eyeing for a hattrick, the opposition continues to be fractured - the two main opposition parties, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have snapped ties and are fighting the polls on their own.

'In simple words, we are fighting both the AGP and the Congress party in the polls,' BJP Assam unit president Ranjit Dutta said.

The AGP had a seat sharing arrangement with the BJP in the 2009 parliamentary elections but the regional party managed to win just one of the 14 seats at stake, while the BJP grabbed four seats. The AGP, in fact, was down from two seats in 2004 to one seat in the 2009 parliamentary elections.

'The people of Assam are in favour of a regional party to rule Assam, considering the fact that the Congress government in the past two successive terms has unleashed a reign of corruption in the state,' AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary told IANS.

'We are talking with smaller regional parties for some kind of an understanding to fight the elections,' he added.

However, parties like the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) are playing the cat and mouse game.

'As of now, we are not talking of any alliance and are keen to go alone in the elections. But in politics, nothing is ruled out and we are ready to tie up with any secular party other then the BJP and the Congress,' AUDF president Badruddin Ajmal said.

'It is true that without opposition unity, the Congress party could be benefitted.'

The Congress seems unfazed.

'We are almost sure to win the elections for the third straight term as no combinations could challenge us since we worked during the last two terms for the welfare of the people,' Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

'Let the AGP and the BJP look for partners,' he added.