ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Lessons of Assam

Lessons of Assam Sanjib Baruah THE Assam election where a spectacular 85 per cent of the electorate participated and the coming to power of the Asom Gana Parishad have important implications for the Indian polity. The inauguration of an exceptionally youthful ministry, that consists mostly of student leaders of the Assam movement, at a public ceremony attended by 200,000 people was the latest and possibly the grand finale of the six-year old Assam movement. Not many observers could have predicted the outcome of the election. Most observers basing themselves on past voting patterns of linguistic, religious and caste groups and the presumed reaction of these groups to the Assam movement and to the accord had feared that the election would only bring about a coalition government and a period of continued political instability. However, the Assam accord seems to have significantly reconstituted Assam's political universe and voters did not vote along lines anticipated by most analysts. Moreover, the unprecedented participation inevitably posed problems for analysts; earlier voting patterns were inadequate to predict the outcome of an election with such high levels of participation. The inability on the part of national political parties and observers to grasp the meaning of the election for various groups in Assam, to some extent parallels their failure to understand the historical meaning of the Assam movement.

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