The first list of 65 Congress nominees for the Assam elections includes many who belong to families of long-term MLAs and MPs, a former Union minister who replaces his MLA wife as candidate, and a son who replaces his mother to contest alongside his father, who is also a sitting minister.
Gautam Roy and his son Rahul have been nominated for the adjoining seats of Katlicherra and Algapur. The father has been also minister for most of the past 15 years; the son was MLA from Algapur in 2006, was replaced by mother Mandira Roy in 2011, and has been brought back again.
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In Silchar, Lok Sabha MP Sushmita Deb’s mother Bithika has been nominated again after a gap of 10 years. Bithika Deb, elected in 2006, had made way for Sushmita in 2011. After Sushmita became an MP and relinquished the assembly seat, the BJP won the byelection. In adjoining Lakhipur, sitting MLA Dinesh Prasad Goala has been replaced with his son Rajdeep.
Two of the Congress candidates in the hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao, too, are sons of Congress veterans. Nirmal Langthasa replaces his father Gobinda Chandra Langthasa in Haflong, while Klengdon Engti, sitting MLA and son of sitting MP Biren Singh Engti, has been nominated again from Bokajan.
APCC president Anjan Dutta has got his daughter Ankita Dutta nominated in his place in Amguri, but failed to get adjoining Sivasagar for himself, which he had sought in an attempt to oust Speaker Pranab Gogoi who is engaged in a feud with the CM.
In Digboi, Rameswar Dhanowar, 77, MLA since 1978, has ensured the constituency is passed on to one of his sons, Gautam. In Jonai, whose sitting Congress MLA Pradan Barua has joined the BJP, the Congress has nominated Sushil Pegu, son of 1991 MLA Gomeswar Pegu.
Former Union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, who had lost his Dibrugarh Lok Sabha in 2014, has replaced his wife and two-time MLA Jibantara Ghatowar in Moran.
In Teok, the Congress has replaced veteran MLA Membor Gogoi with his daughter-in-law Pallabi Saikia Gogoi. And Roselin Tirkey, an MBA from Delhi, has replaced her father, MLA Aklius Tirkey, in Sarupathar.
“I cannot say about others but my daughter, who is an educated girl, has been active in politics for several years and has also served as zila parishad vice-chairman,” Tirkey said. “I did not apply for a ticket this time, she did. And since the party has chosen her, I don’t think she has been named without a reason.”
“There is nothing unusual in giving tickets to sons and daughters of politicians. If a doctor’s son or daughter can become a doctor, if a lawyer’s son or daughter can become a lawyer, then what is the problem if a politician’s son or daughter becomes a politician?” said APCC president Anjan Dutta. “It is only after examining all aspects including winnability that the AICC has nominated them.”
Bhupen Sarma, director of the OKD Institute of Social Change and Development, has described this as an unhealthy trend. “Democracy is by the people, for the people and of the people. But if so many nominations of a major party go only to the kith and kin of existing leaders, it is not only restricting the participation of people but also hindering the growth of democracy,” he said.
Veteran journalist and Asam Bani editor Dileep Chandan said a trend set by the Congress had spread to other parties. “The BJP for instance has nominated Guwahati MP Bijoya Chakravarty’s daughter Suman Haripriya for Hajo. This is not good for democracy,” he said.
Two couples in the Congress are looking at double victories. Gohpur MLA Monika Bora has been renominated while her husband, APCC vice-president Ripun Bora, is the candidate for one of two Rajya Sabha seats for which polling is on March 21. Incidentally, Monika Bora was elected an MLA in 2011 replacing her husband, who was arrested by the CBI in 2008 for allegedly trying to bribe an officer probing a murder. Bora however has been since acquitted in the murder case.
The other couple is Bharat Chandra Narah and Ranee Narah. The husband, a former Assam minister, has been nominated for Dhakuakhana while the wife, a former Union minister, is a candidate for the ensuing Rajya Sabha election. Bharat Chandra Narah was originally in the AGP.