By Sujit Chakraborty
Guwahati, Apr 8 (IANS): In all, 41 political parties, including seven national parties, put up candidates in the recently concluded three-phase elections to the 126-member Assam assembly, five more than the 36 outfits that contested the previous polls in 2016.
Out of the eight national political parties in India, only Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) headed by former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati did not field any candidate in Assam elections, which ended on April 6.
Three allies of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) -- the Janata Dal (United), National People's Party (NPP) and Republican Party of India (Athawale) -- had fielded 33, 11 and seven candidates, respectively, against the nominees of dominant party the BJP.
The Janata Dal (United) is led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, while Union minister Ramdas Athawale heads the Republican Party of India (Athawale). The NPP is under the command of the Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad A. Sangma.
The RPI (Athawale) fielded 26-year-old Krishnamani Das from the Patacharkuchi Assembly constituency against Assam state BJP chief Ranjeet Kumar Dass.
The candidates of two local parties with their political base among the indigenous people -- Rabha Joutho Mancha and Anchalik Gana Mancha -- contested the elections under the symbols of the BJP and the Congress, respectively.
Jailed activist and prominent peasant leader Akhil Gogoi and other candidates of his party, Raijor Dal, fought the elections as Independents.
According to Election Commission data, few prominent and registered unrecognised parties that contested the 2016 polls skipped this year's elections.
These parties include the Shiv Sena, Indian Union Muslim League, Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, Bharat Vikas Morcha, Jharkhand Disom Party, Jai Maha Barath Party, Jan Congress Party and Rashtriya Pragati Party.
The spaces of these parties were, however, apparently managed by some little known outfits -- Asom Jana Morcha, Bahujan Maha Party, Bharatiya Tribal Party, National Republican Congress, Political Justice Party, Rashtriya Ulama Council, Swarna Bharat Party and Voters' Party International.
Political commentator Sushanta Talukdar said that to raise the local and regional issues vigorously, more local and regional parties contested the elections this time.
"Maintaining the multi-lingual and multi-ethnic character of Assam, more numbers of regional and local parties joined the electoral battle this time," Talukdar, the editor of multi-lingual online portal 'nezine', told IANS.
BJP ally and Bihar's ruling party Janata Dal (United) campaigned this time against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act passed by the NDA government.
"We are in line with those opposing the CAA in the state," said Assam JD-U President David Rongpi, adding that they are hopeful of winning 28 seats in the Assembly elections.
After the Bodoland Territorial Council polls in December last year, the BJP had forged an alliance with two local parties -- United People's Party Liberal (UPPL) and Gana Suraksha Party (GSP) -- discarding its old ally Bodoland People's Front (BPF). The AGP is the BJP's second important ally.
During the last Assembly elections in 2016, the BJP had allied with AGP and BPF, which have three ministers in the Assam Cabinet headed by Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal.
Similarly, to take on the ruling BJP in the elections, the Congress, which governed Assam for 15 consecutive years (2001-2016), formed a 10-party 'Mahajot' (grand alliance) with three Left parties -- CPI (M), CPI and CPI (ML) -- and six regional and local parties -- All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Anchalik Gana Morcha, BPF, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Jimochayan (Deori) People's Party and Adivasi National Party.
The results of the Assam Assembly polls will be declared on May 2.