Is BJP in trouble in Assam?

The Assam economy is in serious trouble. Latest data from CAG shows a massive 20% drop in revenue by January 2020. This is the worst for any State in the country. The drop in revenue comes from a 34% drop in GST until January 2020. While GST revenues recovered somewhat in February, the COVID crisis has added to an already dismal situation the State given the massive dependence on Central support and tax devolution. The State expected 21000 crores more from the Centre in 2019-20 on a base of of Rs 39000 crores in 2018-19, a massive increase of 53%. In reality, it received Rs 33000 crores in the first 10 months, far from the Rs 64000 crores it expects in the first 12 months. The centre itself was in trouble and incapable to supporting this kinds of growth. CAG data from March is awaited to firmly conclude the above observations

The Politics

BJP came to power in 2016 in alliance with AGP and BPF winning 41.9% of the vote. In the 2019 election, the alliance won 47.2% of the vote, one of the most underwhelming performance in any BJP ruled State. In the State assembly, there are atleast 30 vulnerable seats which could swing to the opposition in case of even a 5% swing from NDA to the opposition. A loss of 25 to 30 seats will prevent NDA from returning to power.

The Opposition is not exactly well organised to win return to power but if the economy goes further south in the next 3 months, it is difficult to predict how things till play out

On Google Trends, the Calendar Year Gap between BJP and Congress and BJP is the lowest in 4 years

2017: BJP was 6.9 ahead

2018: BJP was 6.4 ahead

2019: BJP was 9.7 ahead

2020: BJP is 6.0 ahead

With this in the background, BJP has launched a report card for each of their MLAs seeking feedback from voters. With anti-incumbency likely to be high, it is likely they will be forced to replace 20-30% of their sitting MLAs.

PM-Kisan Scam

With a financial crisis already engulfing the State, CM Sonowal had last week ordered a probe into an alleged scam in the PM-Kisan Yojana in Assam.

Summary of the Scam

In Assam, nearly 1.9 million beneficiaries have received 4 instalments from the Government. In Barpeta which is at the Centre of the Scam, just 11427 beneficiaries have received the 4th instalment, 2.6 lakhs had received the 2nd instalment.

Centre has given Assam and a couple of States relaxation from Aaadhaar seeding of beneficiaries for PM-Kisan Yojana

May 6th: The State Agriculture Minister Atul Bora (of AGP) ordered a probe on the alleged scam on May 6th, report to be submitted by May 15th

May 18th: CM Sonowal orders a probe by Addl Chief Secretary Jishnu Barua on the 18th. All payments have been stopped

The scam that has come so late in the day could have damaging consequences if any BJP party workers are found to be involved. It is unclear how this will play out at the moment but it needs to be kept in mind.

Overall Summary

When it comes to the economy, Assam is a struggling State with massive dependence on the Centre. With the centre itself in serious trouble, it is clear that Assam will have a tough year ahead. BJP has had a string of ordinary performances in State elections since 2018 – MP, CG, Rajasthan, Odisha, Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra, so it is unlikely they will have it easy in Assam. However, the opposition in Assam is not at all well organised and as election day approaches they are highly likely to indulge in factional fights giving the edge to the BJP. While it is true that BJP is in trouble, it is too early to say they will lose election 2021.