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|October 7, 1999||
Congress sweeps Assam; AGP decimated
The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party wiped out the Asom Gana Parishad from Assam. The former picked up 9 seats while the BJP bagged two of the 13 seats that went to the polls in the northeastern state. Polling in one seat was countermanded.
The Congress maintained its traditional grip over Upper Assam and the Barak valley while the BJP won the prestigious Guwahati and Nagaon seats.
This is the first time the BJP opened its account in the Brahmaputra valley even as party-backed Independent candidate Sansuma Khunurr Biswismutiary scored a comfortable victory in Kokrajhar.
The BJP's advent in the Brahmaputra valley ensured the complete rout of the ruling AGP from the state. For the second successive election, the AGP not only failed to win a single seat, but came second in only two constituencies.
The Congress swept the Barak valley pocketing both seats. Former Union minister Santosh Mohan Deb defeated Union Telecommunication Minister Kabindra Purkaystha in Silchar by over 100,000 votes. Dev lost narrowly to Purkaystha in this prestigious constituency in 1998.
In Karimganj, Nepal Chandra Das comprehensively defeated Parimal Suklabaidya.
In the Brahmaputra valley, the Congress completely swept the Upper Assam region, expectedly bagging all the four seats. The BJP opened its account in the valley for the first time by capturing the Guwahati and Nagaon seats. Both seats the BJP wrested from the Congress.
The Congress, despite the presence of Nationalist Congress Party and radical United Minority Front candidates in almost all the seats, had made it very clear that the Muslims were solidly behind them. It was evident in Barpeta, Karimganj and Koliabor. In Koliabor it was a landslide victory as Congress leader Tarun Gogoi's margin was around 1,68,000 votes.
The AGP-led four party alliance was pushed to near irrelevance in most seats by BJP and Ccongress candidates. Only in Kolaibor, Lakhimpur and Mangaldoi did the AGP put up some semblance of fight.
However, the Congress faced some nervous moments in Tezpur where controversial candidate Mani Kumar Subba was engaged in a bitter contest with the BJP's R P Sharma who was defeated in the last round by over 40,000 votes.
In Guwahati it was a landslide victory for Bijaya Chakravarty who defeated veteran Congressman Bhubaneshwar Kalita by over 100,000 votes. In Nagaon, Rajendra Gohain made up for the narrow loss in 1998 when he defeated the Congress by over 35,000 votes.
The BJP's gains in the Brahmaputra valley were spectacular although the party was not taken seriously in the area till the last election. However, the Barak valley, where the BJP has a traditional base, completely rejected the party.
According to political observers, the Muslim votes did not split this time and went en bloc to the Congress, ensuring substantial victories for the party in Barpeta, Karimganj, Koliabor and Silchar.
Voting was completely polarised this time with traditional caste Hindu votes of the regional political parties going in the BJP's favour.
Meanwhile, the CPI-ML bagged its lone seat in Parliament from the Autonomous seat when Dr Jayanta Rongpi scored his fourth successive victory. In three earlier elections, Dr Rongpi contested as the candidate of the Autonomous State Demand Committee, but this the ASDC contested as the CPI-ML, its parent organisation.
For the AGP and Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta this is the second successive debacle as the party drew a blank in the last general election also. In 1998, the AGP blamed the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom for the debacle, but this time even that excuse was not there.
Accepting the drubbing gracefully AGP spokesman and state Sports Minister Moidul Islam Bora admitted that his party had been swept away by the BJP wave. "When there is such a wave all over the country Assam is not an exception," he said.
The only semblance of a fight came from Sarbananda Sonowal, the former All Assam Students Union president who lost by more than 50,000 votes, Bora said.
"The people have completely rejected their inept and corrupt governance," said state BJP president Narayan Barkatkai, delighted to open the party's account in the Brahmaputra valley.
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