Poll arithmetic – new pastime of Assam politicians

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS,

Guwahati : For politicians in Assam, it is now time to hone their arithmetic skills as leaders are busying themselves in trying to calculate the number of votes they have got in the recently concluded parliamentary polls.

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Poll arithmetic has now become the favourite pastime for politicians with nine days to go for the counting of votes May 16. Elections to 14 parliamentary seats in the state concluded in two phases April 16 and 23 with an estimated 70 percent polling recorded.

“We analysed in detail and made some calculations and are confident of winning four to five of the six seats we contested,” a senior leader of the main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) said.

The AGP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had a pre-poll seat sharing agreement – the BJP fielded candidates in eight of the 14 seats and the AGP contested in six seats.

“The AGP-BJP combine has the potential to get more than nine seats,” senior BJP leader Charan Deka said.

Similar calculations are being made by the ruling Congress party.

“We expect to win more seats than in the 2004 polls,” Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said.

The Congress won nine seats in the 2004 elections, while an independent candidate later supported the ruling party. But analysts say poll arithmetic by political parties based on feedbacks from their own supporters would fail to give a clear picture.

“It is some sort of an entertainment for political parties. Their supporters are involved in an exercise that is unlikely to be a reality,” said Akhil Ranjan Dutta, a teacher at Gauhati University and coordinator for the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), one of India’s best-known independent research institutes.

“Unless the exercise is carried out in a scientific manner, such poll arithmetic is bound to go wrong,” said Manoranjan Goswami, a noted political columnist.

But politicians are in no mood to give up.

“We are sure of our calculations and you can see that on May 16,” the BJP leader said.

Experts are, however, not expecting any major surprise when results are announced next week.

“I don’t think there would be any major surprises, a few seats here and there – one or two seats down for the Congress or a couple might go in favour of the AGP-BJP alliance and nothing beyond that,” Dutta said.