New Delhi: Launching the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s election campaign in Assam, Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned to his pet theme of development and accused the ruling Congress of not delivering on the promises it made to the north-eastern state. The PM made development the central theme of the BJP’s campaign in the 16th general election in 2014, but opted to downplay it in the October-November 2015 Bihar assembly elections, in which the party suffered a rout.

“People who have not been able to work for development in the last 15 years want me to do everything in 15 months. Is it fair? Am I not being targeted unnecessarily? Is it not being done to mislead the people?," Modi said.

He added adding, “Manmohan Singh was elected from this state for 10 years, yet work was not done. People have seen the failure of this party for 15 years (that it has been in power in the state), and they also know that I have been working for development of people in the last 15 months." He was addressing a public meeting in Kokrajhar.

“I have a three-point programme, it is development, development and development. Development is the answer to all the problems of the people. Assam needs immediate infrastructure development, it needs better roads, rail network, water, electricity. The dreams of youth can only be realised through development," said Modi.

The Assam election, due later this year, is important for the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government because the alliance lost the previous two assembly polls, in Delhi and Bihar, held in 2015.

It is the only state among those going to polls, including Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Kerala, where the BJP has an outside chance of winning power. Puducherry will also go to polls in 2016. BJP had turned in an impressive performance in the general election, winning seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam. Ahead of the assembly election in Assam, in a bid to enhance its prospects, the BJP has entered into an alliance with the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF). “If BJP doesn’t do well in Assam, it will enter 2017 after losing assembly elections for two consecutive years, in 2015 and 2016. Out of the five states (including Puducherry) going to polls in 2016, Assam is the only state where there is some chance for BJP to perform well. A loss in elections for two consecutive years will not only impact the functioning of the NDA government but also impact the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi-based political analyst associated with the Centre for Study of Developing Societies.

The BJP won only five seats out of 126 in the 2011 assembly polls and 10 seats in the previous election in 2006. Its efforts to align with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) ended in failure.

Sarbananda Sonowal, minister for youth and sports affairs in the NDA government, a former AGP member who joined the BJP in 2011, is likely to lead the party’s election campaign as he is an established regional politician.

Apart from the AGP, another party which has risen to prominence is the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) which won 18 seats in 2011 state polls.

The ruling Congress party is trying to form an alliance with AIUDF to bolster its chances of winning the polls in a state it has governed for three consecutive terms.

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