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

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After Gogoi

Congress and Its Challenges in Assam

With the passing away of Tarun Gogoi and assembly elections due in April 2021, the Congress party faces three formidable challenges: resolving leadership crisis and organisational revamping, forging a social coalition and ensuring a consensus over a new ideological middle ground among diverse political parties and factions in the state to challenge the dominance of the Bharatiya Janata Party. These three challenges are deeply intertwined and primarily owe to religion overpowering the ethnic and linguistic barriers of political mobilisation in the state.

Assam had traditionally been perceived as a Congress state. Barring a brief interlude of Janata Party government (1978–79), the Congress party with its umbrella character dominated the politics in Assam till the rise of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in 1985. Post Assam agitation, the nature of party system changed as the pattern of political competitiveness and social base of parties underwent transformation. The party system became fragmented as a consequence of deeper ethnicisation and politicisation of identities in the state (Goswami 2003). The AGP became a dominant pole in the state, and a regional party could challenge the dominance that the Congress enjoyed as the latter’s umbrella character withered away. The fragmentation of party system became a potent reason for the marginalisation of the Congress because the social base that traditionally remained positively predisposed towards the party shifted either to the AGP or the newly formed smaller parties primarily having a base among religious or ethnic groups.

The AGP could enjoy two alternate terms and the 2001 assembly elections marked the return of Congress which continued in power for three consecutive terms till the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2016. The dominance that the BJP enjoys in the state is unprecedented for two significant reasons. First, the intensity and extensity of its dominance makes its position markedly distinct from the parties that previously dominated the state politics. Within a period of just six years, the party and its allies have gained a dominant position from panchayat to Parliament.

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Updated On : 23rd Jan, 2021
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