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Assam: Can Cong defy anti-incumbency, ULFA threat?

Last updated on: March 18, 2011 14:47 IST

Assam: Can Cong defy anti-incumbency, ULFA threat?

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The ruling Congress in Assam appears to have an edge over the Asom Gana Parishad and the Bharatiya Janata Party in the coming election in Assam but is confronted by the anti-incumbency factor, corruption charges and threat from the anti-talk United Liberation Front of Asom faction.

Leading the party into the fight for a record third term in the assembly, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's main fear is anti-incumbency besides corruption charges, particularly in the funds diversion scam in the North Cachar Hills Autonomous Council.

There is also a threat posed by the ULFA anti-talk faction led by 'commander-in-chief' Paresh Barua, but observers said it is unlikely to create any major damage.

Assam Pradesh Congress President Bhubaneswar Kalita says, "Party workers and leaders are dismissive of such threats and attacks as they were a common occurrence even in the past and could not prevent the party from coming to power for two consecutive terms."

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Image: Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi
Photographs: Rediff archives
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Division of votes in opposition camp may help Congress

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The Congress wrested power from the AGP in 2001 with a clear majority, winning 71 of the 126 seats though in the second term of 2006-11, its tally went down to 53.

However, the party was successful in forming the government with a post-poll alliance with the Bodoland Peoples' Front which had won eight seats and support of five Independents.

The opposition AGP, along with its earlier allies Communist Party of India-Marxist, Communist Party of India and ASDC, had a pre-poll alliance with the BJP in the last assembly polls winning 28 and 10 seats respectively but the two parties have decided to go separate ways in the forthcoming polls.

The AGP was planning to contest 104 seats and the BJP would go alone in all the 110 seats and this likely division of votes may help the ruling Congress to create history in the state by returning to power for the third successive term.


Image: A soldier stands guard on the banks of the river Brahmaputra on the outskirts of Guwahati
Photographs: Utpal Baruah/Reuters
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AGP is hit by infighting within party

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The position of the major parties have not been further helped by dissidence in a section of the rank and file of the party following announcement of candidates for some constituencies with several disgruntled members being denied tickets planning to contest as independents.

The AGP is particularly hit by infighting within the party with sitting MP from Tezpur Joseph Toppo and former MP Lakhimpur Arun Sarma expressing their dissatisfaction over the allotment of constituencies and making public their decision to stay away from the campaigning.

AGP president Chandramohan Patowary, though admitting that there was dissatisfaction among a section of members after being denied tickets, said, "It would have no impact on its electoral prospects."

The party had split into two factions in 2002 with the

breakaway group, AGP (Progressive), led by former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta managing to retain only his seat and the parent party led by then President Brindabon Goswami winning 24 seats in the last polls.

The two factions came together in 2009 but the gains of the unity are likely to be frittered away if current president Chandramohan Patowary fails to keep dissidence in check.


Image: AGP founder and ex-chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta
Photographs: Reuters
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BJP, too, is facing dissidence

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The BJP, too, was facing dissidence with dissatisfied party workers even going to the extent of vandalising party headquarters in Guwahati and supporters of rival candidates clashing at Morigaon and some other places.

BJP state unit president Ranjit Dutta said indiscipline by a miniscule section of party workers would not be tolerated and the dedicated workers are concentrating in their respective constituencies to make their candidates win.

The expulsion of five sitting MLAs, who had voted for the Congress candidate in the last Rajya Sabha polls may give an edge to the ruling party with one of them Dr Rumi Nath contesting from her Barkhola constituency on Congress ticket.


Image: Senior BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani is felicitated by former Assam state BJP president Ramen Deka and BJP leader Bijoya Chakraborty during a public meeting in Guwahati
Photographs: Utpal Baruah/Reuters
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'Workers are working whole-heartedly for Cong's success'

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The Congress, too, has a section of disgruntled members who were denied tickets and supporters of deprived candidates even protested before All India Congress Committee general secretary Digvijay Singh in this connection.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, however, brushed aside the issue claiming there was no dissidence. "Those not given tickets have been given other charges and all are working whole heartedly for Congress' success in the polls," he said.

The Congress dependent on the minority vote bank in several constituencies is, however, likely to face stiff opposition from the Asom United Democratic Front which won 10 seats and was second in 12 others in the last assembly polls.

The party has decided to contest 86 seats in the forthcoming polls. The ruling party also did not enter a pre-poll alliance with its coalition partner of the current assembly Bodo Peoples' Front, which had won 11 seats in the last elections.

The BPF has put up candidates in all 12 constituencies under the four Bodoland Territorial Administered Districts and was also planning to contest in some seats outside these districts.

Both the parties are keeping their options open though they claim they will form the next government together. The constituencies going to polls in the first phase include 15 in the Barak Valley, five in the two hill districts of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills district, eight in Sonitpur and the remaining 34 in the Upper Assam districts of Dhemaji, Golaghat, Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Lakhimpur and Jorhat which include Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's constituency Titabor.


Image: Prime minister Manmohan Singh waves to the crowd along with CM Tarun Gogoi during a function in Dispur
Photographs: Utpal Baruah/Reuters
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