About 20 candidates of the Congress-led alliance of Opposition parties in Assam were shifted to a luxury hotel near Jaipur on Friday amid fears of horse-trading by the Bharatiya Janata Party before the announcement of results of the tightly contested State Assembly election on May 2.
The candidates included those from the Badruddin Ajmal-led All andhar bahar game United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Left parties. The Congress candidates were likely to join them shortly. There were speculation that the AIUDF candidates could be taken to Dubai, where Mr. Ajmal’s family has business interests.
The candidates arrived in Jaipur by a chartered flight and were driven straight to the hotel, where the Congress MLAs from Rajasthan were also sequestered in July last year during the crisis in the State's ruling party. One of the candidates from Assam, seeking anonymity, said Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot had made arrangements for their stay at the hotel.
An AIUDF spokesperson said Mr. Ajmal was not accompanying the team and was in Mumbai. “Our candidates may visit Ajmer Sharif during their stay in Rajasthan. They will be provided with separate mobile phones so that others cannot contact them,” he said.
The Assam unit of the Congress has also given indications that some of their “vulnerable” candidates too could be flown out of the State.
The 11 candidates of the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) are also expected to leave Assam soon. Their chief Hagrama Mohilary has summoned them to an undisclosed location in western Assam’s Kokrajhar.
The BPF had fielded 12 candidates but one of them, contesting the Tamulpur Assembly seat, joined the BJP six days ahead of the final phase of polling on April 6. The AIUDF and the BPF are two main constituents of the Congress-led Mahajot, or grand alliance, of 10 parties.
“Yes, they have all left Assam. The party will soon take a decision whether or not they will remain in Rajasthan till the announcement of the results on May 2,” AIUDF leader Aminul Islam told The Hindu.
Congress chief whip in the Rajasthan Assembly Mahesh Joshi and MLA Rafiq Khan, who were looking after the arrangements, were given the responsibility to ensure that the Assam election contestants were not approached by unknown persons during their stay.
The departure of the AIUDF candidates and the summoning of the BPF candidates to Kokrajhar has indicated that the 2021 Assembly election result could be tighter than expected.
The BJP-led Mitrajot (group of friends) has been claiming it would win at least 100 of the 126 Assembly seats. The Opposition Mahajot has also made a similar claim.
But the internal surveys of most of the parties have pointed to a hung House where the two alliances could be close to the simple majority mark of 65 seats.
The “precaution” taken by the AIUDF is apparently based on the Manipur experience for parties opposed to the BJP. The Congress had won 28 of the 60 Manipur seats, while the BJP won 22 in the 2017 election, but the latter weaned away some Congress MLAs to form the government.