Assam polls: Grand alliance advised to target ‘realistic’ 70 seats

BPF chief Hagrama Mohilary takes a swipe at BJP’s Himanta Biswa Sarma for his “horse-trading trait”

Hours after severing ties with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and joining the Congress-led ‘mahajath’ or grand alliance, Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) chief Hagrama Mohilary said it would be more realistic to target 70 seats to form the next government in Assam.

Before the BPF became its seventh constituent, the grand alliance had eyed more than 100 of Assam’s 126 Assembly seats in response to the BJP’s “Mission 100”.

“We need to win 64 seats to form the government. Since it is unnecessary to win more seats, let’s ensure 70 seats and let the others share the remaining seats. It can be difficult to manage if we win more than necessary. I am sure we can attain simple majority,” Mr. Mohilary told journalists on Sunday.

He had virtually taken centre-stage among leaders of the seven allies who addressed the media.

Apart from the BPF and the Congress, the grand alliance constituents are the minority-based All India United Democratic Front, Communist Party of India, CPI (Marxist), CPI (Marxist-Leninist) and the regional Anchalik Gana Morcha. The Rashtriya Janata Dal is expected to join the alliance.

Mr. Mohilary said countering BJP’s slogans in their language would serve no purpose.

“Let us not repeat their absurd claims (of winning 100 seats). Unlike some parties, we will not have to buy support from others to form the government. We can form the government without bribes because people want the BJP’s misrule to end,” he said.

The BPF chief and former head of the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) also panned Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for resorting to horse-trading in the December 2020 BTC polls.

“We don’t want to form the government adopting the methods Himanta Biswa Sarma used after the BTC elections. He abducted elected representatives, kept them confined in hotels and formed the government there. As a consequence, they have already started fighting among themselves,” he said.

The BPF, which ruled 40-member BTC for 17 years, had emerged as the single-largest party in the council polls with 17 seats. But its rival United People’s Party Liberal (12 seats), the BJP (10, after an elected Congress member defected) and the Gana Suraksha Party (one) forged a post-poll alliance to form the council.

The BPF was a minor ally in the Congress-led government in Assam for almost two terms until it switched over to the BJP ahead of the 2016 State polls. It had won 12 of the 13 seats it had contested to help the BJP-led coalition get a total of 86 seats.

The relationship between the BPF and the BJP soured after Mr. Mohilary had in a North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) meeting backed Sarbananda Sonowal to be the Chief Minister of Assam after the 2021 polls. The NEDA is an anti-Congress front of regional parties helmed by the BJP.

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