For Assam Challenge, BJP All Set To Partner Bodoland People's Front

For Assam Challenge, BJP All Set To Partner Bodoland People's Front

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Assam on January 19. (PTI photo)

Guwahati:  With Assam heading for elections  - expected to take place around April - the BJP is all set to announce its first alliance with the Bodoland People's Front in lower Assam.

The announcement is expected to be made on January 19 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Kokrajhar - headquarters of the autonomous Bodo Territorial Council - and announces a possible economic package for the Bodo council.

The Bodos -  a plain tribe - dominate four large districts in lower Assam and determine the fate of 16 seats.

In 2011, with 12 elected lawmakers, the Bodoland People's Front or BPF had supported the Congress government, primarily because of the efforts of Himanta Biswa Sarma, the former minister in the Gogoi government who's now joined the BJP.

But now the equation seems to have changed. Beyond the Bodo stronghold, the BJP would also rely on the BPF to influence the Bodo vote in districts that have a sizeable Bodo population, especially the ones on the north bank of the Brahmaputra.

The BJP is also reported to be in talks with United People's Front - a rainbow coalition of parties representing different tribes - that claim to have an influence over 30 seats. But the Union Sports Minister Sarbananda Sonowal who heads the BJP in Assam played down these reports. "We are talking to everyone. Nothing had been finalised yet," Mr Sonowal told NDTV.

Assam is a high stakes battle, both for the BJP and the Congress. Having ruled Assam for 15 years now, it's almost a prestige battle for the Congress to retain the state. The BJP, on the other hand, has seen a surge in its support base and won half of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2014.

While the party has launched 'Mission 84' to win a majority of the 126 assembly seats, several senior ministers have started visiting the state. Last month, Sushma Swaraj and Smriti Irani addressed public rallies and today Rajnath Singh landed in Assam for a two-day trip.

This will be followed by the Prime Minister Modi's visit where he will also address the BJP's youth wing. "Prime Minister is an icon for the country's youth and our endeavour would be carry his message to the youth of Assam tomorrow bring about a change in the state," Mr Sonowal told NDTV.

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