//Loss of Muslim vote in Assam may hurt Cong minority tag

Loss of Muslim vote in Assam may hurt Cong minority tag

[ Wednesday, May 10, 2006 02:26:03 amTIMES NEWS NETWORK ]

NEW DELHI: The success of the Muslim-centric Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) in the Assam elections may contain a sombre lesson for Congress.

Significant loss of Muslim vote will see its hopes to stage a national comeback recede as it still struggles to regain lost bases in big states like UP and Bihar.

The projections of some exit polls that Congress may end up behind AGP has rattled party leaders and MPs from the state. They fear factionalism combined with the inroads by AUDF might scupper the party's prospects to such an extent that it gets knocked out of power.

Even if Congress does manage to emerge as the single largest party, the shortfall in terms of seats required for a majority is the subject of keen speculation.

CM Tarun Gogoi's camp is hoping that if the party needs 10-15 seats, these could be easily met with the assistance of Bodo groups and Independents.

The possibility of AUDF, led by Badruddin Azmal, a former Jamaat leader and 'ittar' businessman, getting a decisive role in government formation is what is of most concern to Congress. It will, for one, virtually end Gogoi's prospects of becoming CM again.

There are implications for Congress even outside Assam.

The party's apparent failure to keep Muslims on its side despite having tried to undo the SC ruling on scrapping the IMDT Act would mean, Congress MPs feel, that the Gogoi government has been unable to convince Muslims that it was sincere in protecting their interests.

While the knives in the Assam unit are already out Gogoi is being blamed for saying that Congress was not dependent on minority support alone the implications for Congress's national ambitions are not too rosy either.

Even as it is still nowhere near regaining minority support in UP and Bihar, it may have lost it significantly in a stronghold.

AUDF's success may also see other such units being spawned, with agendas more radical than mainstream parties, in UP next year.