BJP may support AGP for Rajya Sabha in Assam

By Faraz Ahmad


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New Delhi : The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is planning to revive its fraternal relations with former ally Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in Assam with an eye on the forthcoming presidential elections.

At its parliamentary party meeting held here Tuesday morning, the BJP expressed its preference for supporting an AGP candidate for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Assam falling vacant, one of which is being contested by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The term of two Rajya Sabha members from Assam, including the prime minister, expires on June 14 this year. The other person retiring along with him is Indramoni Bora of BJP.

Notification for the biennial elections to these two seats was issued Monday and the last date of nominations is May 14, said an Election Commission communication. Election to these two seats is to be held on May 24, it said.

According to party sources, when the issue came up for discussion at the weekly parliamentary party meeting, party leaders advised the members to look "realistically" at their numbers.

A senior leader of the BJP said later, "We have just 10 MLAs in Assam. On our own we cannot secure our candidate's victory", in effect ruling out the chances of re-nominating Indramoni Bora for a second term from Assam.

Privately, the BJP leaders admitted that together even the AGP and BJP may not be able to win the second seat in Assam. "But if the AGP succeeds in securing the support of the Muslim United Front (MUF) which has another 11 members, it can get its candidate through," said a senior BJP parliamentary party leader.

However, sources pointed out that the MUF has already struck a deal with the Congress in the state and its MLAs may vote for the Congress on the two seats.

The Congress has enough votes to secure a clear victory for Singh, but for the other seat it needs some outside support along with its second preference votes to win both the Rajya Sabha seats from Assam, said sources.

Normally the BJP would have been game to nominating its candidate, especially when there is no alliance with the AGP in Assam.

But then sources indicated that at the moment the BJP is keen to strike cordial relations with regional parties, beyond the pale of its National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

"Uttar Pradesh (assembly elections) will decide many things. If we win UP, as we are almost certain to, it we will have greater stake in the presidential elections and we have to think of these things now," said a BJP source.

Political sources pointed out that all three – namely the TDP, the AGP and the AIADMK – have aligned with the BJP at one time or the other. During the last presidential elections, then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had jointly decided to nominate A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as the National Democratic Alliance-Samajwadi Party candidate forcing the Congress to fall in line and support Kalam.