Sonia Gandhi,Manmohan Singh and Tarun Gogoi
Snapshot
  • Just as the Ahoms, under the legendary general Lachit Borphukan, had routed the Mughal army sent to capture Assam in the Battle of Saraighat in mid-March, 1671, so too, the BJP’s master strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma declared, would the people of Assam defeat the Congress and the AIUDF to rid Assam of the lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

    Once the BJP wins in Assam, it will only be a matter of time before the party forms governments in states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur.

    Medieval India had to wait for 186 years (till 1857) after the Battle of Saraighat for the Mughal empire to crumble and the dynasty to become history. Modern India may not have to wait even 186 weeks for the same to happen to the Congress and the Gandhis.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the midst of the highly-charged electoral battle in Assam, declared that the polls would be the ‘Second battle of Saraighat’ where people of Assam would defeat the foreigners (read: the lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants merrily residing in Assam) and their sponsors (the Congress and the AIUDF). Just as the Ahoms, under the legendary general Lachit Borphukan, had routed the Mughal army sent to capture Assam in the Battle of Saraighat in mid-March, 1671, so too, the BJP’s master strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma declared, would the people of Assam defeat the Congress and the AIUDF to rid Assam of the lakhs of illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

If the post-poll surveys (a clarification here: they are not exit polls as they are being erroneously termed), whose results were announced on Monday evening, are to be believed, Sarma’s words could turn out to be prophetic for not just Assam, but also for the Congress. The Mughal empire went into a decline after the Battle of Saraighat and the Mughal dynasty was obliterated after that. Will the projected defeat of the Congress in Assam also herald the downfall of the Congress in the rest of the country and the gradual end of the Gandhi dynasty?

For the BJP, a win in Assam would be a major boost to its morale and image in the rest of the country. Assam has been ruled by the Congress for 60 of the 69 years since Independence and the BJP has never been a major player in the state. Wresting this most important state in Northeast India from the Congress would not only give the BJP a major foothold in this strategically important region that is the pivot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Áct East’ policy, but would also deliver a crushing blow to the Congress.

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In fact, there seems to be little to cheer about for the Congress in the other states that had gone to the polls. In West Bengal, the unethical and opportunistic alliance the Congress formed with the CPI(M)-led Left Front (after having unsuccessfully battled the CPM for the 34 disastrous years the Left misruled Bengal) may have created a stir in the columns of some newspapers and the imaginations of some urban, middle-class ‘bhadraloks’, but the alliance appears to be headed for a deserving defeat.

All the post-poll surveys give the Trinamool Congress anything between 163 seats and 243 seats, way above the halfway mark of 148 seats. The ‘unholy’ alliance (Left-Congress) would win anything between 38 and 126 seats. However, many political pundits feel that the Trinamool would win a little over 160 seats. Only the Nielsen-ABP survey which gave the Trinamool 163 seats added a caveat: that they were unsure of the results in 25 of these seats that were very closely contested, and if the Left-Congress combine scrapes through in these 25 seats, the Trinamool’s applecart would be upset. But such a prospect, say poll pundits, is highly unlikely and the Trinamool, thanks to some good work in the rural areas and the support it still retains among the Muslims, will cruise through to a comfortable victory.

The Congress leadership had invested a lot in the Left-Congress alliance and a fourth term for the Tarun Gogoi government in Assam. Sonia Gandhi and her son had made many trips to these two states and addressed many election rallies. In West Bengal, there was the amusing spectacle of Rahul Gandhi and his mother exhorting the electorate to support the Left and Congress candidates and sharing stages at rallies with Left leaders while breathing fire against the Left in Kerala. The same, of course, goes for the Left leaders, thus exposing the opportunism and ideological hara-kiri of both the Congress and Left.

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While the Left is predicted to win in Kerala, some of the surveys project a close win for the DMK-Congress alliance in Tamil Nadu. But even if the projections in Tamil Nadu were to come true, the Congress can barely crow about a win in a state where it is a very junior partner in the alliance. Just the Congress now realises that it counts for nothing in the scheme of things in Nitish Kumar’s Bihar (where too the Congress was gleefully hanging on to the coattails of the JD(U) and RJD-led ‘mahagathbandhan’), in Tamil Nadu too it will be rendered redundant by Karunanidhi.

All this will leave the Congress in a very sorry state at the national level. For the BJP, the tremendous boost it’ll receive from the expected win in Assam will undoubtedly strengthen the hands of Prime Minister Modi. Once the BJP wins in Assam, it will only be a matter of time before the party forms governments in states like Meghalaya, Nagaland and Manipur. The party is already in power in Arunachal Pradesh. Also, the projected win of the BJP in Assam will be significant since the party had to face a tough challenge from Muslims of Bangladeshi origin who form a majority of the electorate in as many as 24 constituencies and are a deciding factor in at least another 20 constituencies. That adds up to nearly one-third of the 126 Assembly constituencies in Assam.

Thus, wresting Assam from the Congress (which has been widely accused to aiding illegal immigration from Bangladesh for its narrow, selfish objective of building up vote-banks) in the face of tough opposition and even open hostility from all the Bangladeshi-origin Muslims who voted en-bloc for the Congress (and the AIUDF too in some constituencies) would make the BJP’s victory a truly historic one. And it would surely herald the decline of the Congress in North East India.

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Himanta Biswa Sarma’s ‘Second Battle of Saraighat’ reference could also turn out to be very prescient. After all, there are many similarities between the Congress at present and the Mughal empire during the late 17th century. The breakup of the Mughal empire started soon after the Battle of Saraighat in 1671. That battle inflicted the first decisive defeat on the once-mighty Mughal army and the imperial army never really recovered from the crushing blow it received from the Ahom army. Will the expected blow delivered by the electorate of Assam to the Congress lead to its terminal decline? Such a prospect seems tantalising.

Medieval India had to wait for 186 years (till 1857) after the Battle of Saraighat for the Mughal empire to crumble and the dynasty to become history. Modern India may not have to wait even 186 weeks for the same to happen to the Congress and the Gandhis.

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