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Tarun Gogoi lands a double bonus

G Vinayak in Guwahati | May 14, 2004 20:32 IST

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has landed a double bonus.

First, the Congress under him has managed to retain almost the same number of Lok Sabha seats from the state -- nine out of 14 to be precise, just one short of the 1999 tally.

Second, as a bonus Pradesh Congress Committee chief and his Gogoi's chief rival Paban Singh Ghatowar lost from the party bastion Dibrugarh.

Ghatowar, a prominent leader of the tea community, lost to former All Assam Students

Union president Sarbananda Sonowal fighting on an Asom Gana Parishad ticket.

Gogoi is now the undisputed leader in Assam three years after he became chief minister in a decisive assembly election results.

The BJP, despite its bluster in the run-up to the polls, could barely manage to retain the two seats it had won in 1999. Much to its chagrin, music maestro Bhupen Hazarika, fielded by the party at the last moment, lost heavily in the prestigious Guwahati Lok Sabha seat.

Although, BJP won both the seats in Arunachal Pradesh and its allies registered victories in one seats each of Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya, it will be bitterly disappointed with the results in Assam from where it was hoping to add at least another three seats to its 1999 tally of two.

The northeast tally of the Congress dipped by three seats despite gaining Inner Manipur.

It had 14 of the 24 seats of the region in its kitty -- 10 in Assam, one in Meghalaya, one in Nagaland and two in Arunachal Pradesh.

Votes polled in Outer Manipur constituency will be counted on May 19. This time, it has lost the lone seats in Nagaland and Mizorama and both the seats in Arunachal Pradesh.

P R Kyndiah, veteran parliamentarian from Meghalaya, however, retained the Shillong seat for the Congress but the party could not dislodge Purno A Sangma, the Garo strongman from his Tura bastion.

With the Congress coming back to power at the Centre, Sangma, whose political journey has taken him from Congress to Sharad Pawar's NCP and now to Mamata Banerjee's Nationalist Trinamool Congress, will be left rueing his wrong timing in aligning with the BJP-led NDA alliance this time.

The regional AGP, too, was happy with its own performance after drawing a blank in the 1999 polls.

Party leader Biraj Sarma said the result indicated the party's resurgence. AGP candidates won in Dibrugarh (Sarbananda Sonowal) and Lakhimpur (Arun Sarma) at the Congress' expense.

In Tripura, the ruling Left Front retained both seats. Assam BJP president Indramoni Bora said it was ironical that his party's vote share increased from 33 per cent in 1999, but did not add to its tally of seats.

The BJP won two seats, Mangaldoi and Nagaon, but the defeat in Guwahati rankled. "I take full responsibility (for the party's showing) and am ready to quit my post if need be," Bora said.

With the Lok Sabha poll outcome hogging all the attention, the Congress' defeat in the byelection to the Mariani Assembly seat in Assam went virtually unnoticed.

Trinamul Congress candidate Alouk Ghosh defeated his BJP rival, Binod Gogoi, by a margin of 2,671 votes. Congress candidate Nagen Tanti finished third.

The bypoll was necessitated by the death of Rupam Kurmi, who was a member of the Gogoi ministry, in February. Mariani was a Congress stronghold with Kurmi winning the seat continuously since 1991.

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