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|October 1, 1999||
APCC chief finds himself in trouble
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee president and former Union minister Tarun Gogoi is facing a tough challenge from the ruling Asom Gana Parishad candidate Keshab Mahanta in his efforts to retain the Koliabor Lok Sabha constituency.
Though Gogoi is involved in a multi-cornered contest, it seems obvious that it will be a straight contest between him and Mahanta.
The constituency has witnessed largescale poster and banner campaigns by both the parties. The other parties, however, are lagging far behind in this respect.
Gogoi represented the seat since 1980 except for an upset in 1996 and a loss in 1985. In 1996 Mahanta upset Gogoi by just 1616 votes. However, in 1998 Gogoi avenged the defeat with a landslide victory margin of 2.32 lakh votes.
This time Gogoi is also facing problems in keeping intact the Tea tribe's votes which have always gone with the Congress, because of the presence of BJP candidate and Tea tribe leader Bhadreswar Tanti.
Secondly, the religious minority electorate who are a major deciding factor, are also not in favour of the Congress because it had not raised their problems in Parliament. Muslim MLAs who represent two segments in the constituency, have openly revolted against Gogoi.
APCC secretary Satyen Bora, however, claimed that Gogoi would win the election with a thumping majority since he was an undisputed leader in the constituency.
The constituency has 11,11,531 voters, 2,07,087 of whom are from the minorities, And there are 2,03,096 Tea tribe voters, scattered over the 10 assembly segments. The BJP candidate, Tanti, who felt sick and fainted in an election meeting in Garumara area on September 25, has however recovered but the illness has affected his campaign. He alleged that 'goons' from the opposition were active in disrupting his campaign by issuing threats to his workers.
The voters in the flood-hit areas of the Dergaon, Bokakhat, Koliabor and Samaguri assembly segments who used to support the Congress are clearly unhappy because of Gogoi's alleged failure to address their grievances.
In all eight candidates are in the fray. The Nationalist Congress Party has fielded a Muslim candidate, Samsul Huda. The Congress, which depends mainly on the Muslim and Tea tribe votes, would certainly suffer because of Huda's presence in the fray. Though the NCP has been lagging behind in campaign in the constituency, the visit of its general secretary and Lok Sabha speaker P A Sangma to the constituency has somewhat improved the situation.
The Samajwadi Party has also fielded a Muslim candidate, Shib Khan. However, there is no enthusiasm, and the involvement of people in the elections is clearly lacking. Even the election camp officers set up by the different political parties, were managed by some minor boys who were not of voting age. So far there have been no untoward incident in the constituency, and most of the parties had set up their camp offices side by side.
The AGP, BJP and the Congress have set up the maximum of such camps. Lately, however, allegations and counter-allegations of links with the banned United Liberation Front of Asom have been raised against the Congress and the AGP. But the banned organisation had denied such reports and stated that it was opposed to the elections and they had no faith in any political parties. Barring Sangma (NCP) and AGP president and chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, no national leader has visited the constituency so far.
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