Guwahati: With focus shifting to Lower Assam, Central Assam and the Barak Valley, the opposition 'grand alliance' is confident of doing well in the second and the third phases of the Assembly elections.
Political watchers said BJP has the chance to win only those seats in lower Assam where Hindus are majority. There have been at least 30 seats in Lower Assam and Barak Valley where the Muslims votes are decisive and 12 seats in Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) where the Bodo and Muslim votes play a key role. These seats are the traditional stronghold of the grand alliance constituents - Congress, AIUDF and BPF and winning the most of the seats since 2006.
In the remaining phases, Muslim votes will be the most decisive factor. This time, due to the alliance between the Congress, AIUDF, BPF, and Left, there will be virtually no division of Muslim votes in Lower and Middle Assam. It will prevent BJP and AGP from retaining some seats like—Sorbhog, Barpeta, Bilasipara East, etc-- they won last time due to the division of minority votes.
"The strong Muslim bashing by BJP leader and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has further alienated the Muslims from the BJP. The grand alliance will be benefited in lower Assam and some seats in Barak Valley," said a professor at BH College in lower Assam's Barpeta district.
During the first phase campaign in Upper Assam, the leaders of the ruling BJP have repeatedly attacked the Congress-led alliance since the declaration of election dates, with BJP central leadership labelling the opposition ''Mahajoot'' as an "unholy alliance", describing the Congress and Badruddin Ajmal's AIUDF as the "main enemy" of Assam.
"The continous attack on Muslim and Ajmal as the 'enemy of Assam' will certainly impact BJP's prospect in the minority dominated areas. The continuous attacks on the Muslims has united not only the Muslims but also a section of the conscious Hindu voters," Hafiz Ahmed, president of the Char Chapori Sahitya Parishad, the apex literary body of the Sar areas, said.
He added that the continuous "attacks on the Muslims" has hurt the self-esteem of the Muslims, particularly the Bengal origin Muslims.
"The conscious youths of the Bengal origin Muslims have been working sincerely with dedication to defeat the BJP and it's allies. Certainly, a large section of the Assamese Muslims had voted for BJP in 2016. But the insulting comments made by BJP leaders has created anger and anguish.BJP has already been isolated from them," Ahmed said.
Ahmed also pointed out that the Hindu voters who consider Muslims as an integral part of the Assamese sub-nationality have also been "isolated".
"This will harm BJP and help the grand alliance. In the constituencies like Sorbhog, the candidates of the grand alliance are going to win as a result of this," Ahmed said.
The opposition Congress, BPF and AIUDF also firmly believe that the "flawless transfer of votes among the alliance partners" will help restrict BJP in these seats where BJP did well in 2016 due to division of votes.
"The second and third phase constituencies are our strongholds and we are confident of winning maximum seats. There will be seamless transfer of votes among grand alliance partners as leaders of every party campaigning for the alliance," Congress president Ripun Bora said.
AIUDF general secretary Haidor Hussain Bora also said that its party chief Badruddin Ajmal is campaigning for the grand alliance partner and joint activities have been carried out to stop the votes division.
Though the grand alliance is expected to get the majority of the seats, the ruling BJP which has fielded five Musilm candidates in lower Assam, said it will win at least two seats - banking on the development schemes provided by the BJP government.
"The top leaders of the BJP are frequently holding allies in these seats where there is massive response. We believe the Sab Ka Sath, Sab Ka Biswas slogans will attract the voters as BJP government has not done any bias providing government jobs or schemes to the minority people," Muktar Hussain Khan, BJP state minority cell president said.
BJP's ally AGP which has a significant presence in the minority areas might suffer in these seats allegedly due to the alliance with BJP.
"Sitting Barpeta MLA Gunindra Nath Das and former MLA Bhupen Roy for Abhayapuri (North) were popular among the minority people and they have a significant presence in the Muslim voters. But AGP's tie-up with the saffron party might harm their cause," said Abdul Barreque Khan, a former office bearer of Barpeta AGP.
However, he pointed out that former MLA Javed Islam, who is contesting from Mankachar and, educationist Ranjit Deka from Bhabanipur might win from these two minority-dominated seats due to "weak grand alliance partners". Khan also said as the Congress and AIUDF are engaged in a friendly fight in Sarukhetri constituency, AGP candidate, the popular Bhojpuri folk singer Kalpana Patowary, who joined AGP last year in October, has a chance due to the divison of votes between AIUDF and Congress.
The second and final phase will go to the polls on April 1 and April 6 for 79 seats.