The Assembly election candidates of the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), who were flown to Jaipur a week ago, on Friday flew back to Assam.
At least 17 candidates, along with five family members, had been shifted to Fairmont hotel in Jaipur and were expected to stay here till May 2. But, sources said, the MLAs were concerned due to rising Covid cases.
“The counting is on May 2, so there was a concern that if they contract Covid here, they might not be able to reach Assam for the counting and won’t be able to keep an eye on the entire process and that it stays neutral,” a source said. The candidates made a brief halt at Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s residence here, where they were given a Gandhi diary and a shawl, before proceeding to the airport.
Upon their arrival in Guwahati, AIUDF general secretary, Champak Kalita said, “They landed at Guwahati airport at 3 pm. How long could they stay there? They travelled quite a bit, saw different places and soon, there will be counting and the candidates need to be in their respective constituencies,”. He added that rising Covid cases and an impending lockdown was also a factor for the return of the candidates. “That is why they advanced their return date by about 5-6 days. If the situation gets grim, they may get stuck there,” he said.
A source in the AIUDF added that the candidates had not planned to stay till the results were declared. “It is true that Covid cases are increasing there, but they would have come back soon anyway,” he said, adding that the trip had ‘gone well’. “It was also a bonding trip since there are a lot of new faces who are contesting this time,” he said.
“We have taken some time off. Of course, the risk of horse trading is there,” AIUDF’s influential general secretary Aminul Islam, a candidate from Mankachar constituency in Assam, had told The Indian Express last week.
Tasked with hosting the AIUDF members, Rajasthan Congress Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi had said upon their arrival: “Rajasthan’s slogan is ‘Padharo Mhare Des’ (welcome to my land), the more people arrive, the better it is for Rajasthan tourism.”
Joshi and Congress MLA from Jaipur’s Adarsh Nagar Assembly, Rafeek Khan, had organised the stay of the candidates and their expenses were borne by the Congress party.
On Friday, Joshi said, “They are indeed going back. It is not our matter when they arrive and when they return. They got a message from Assam to come back.” During their stay, the candidates had ventured out and visited Ajmer Dargah, where they had prayed for good results.
In the outgoing Assembly, the AIUDF holds 14 seats. It contested 19 seats this time (including in alliance with the Congress, and is in alliance with Congress as a part of the ‘Mahajot’ (grand alliance). The Congress-AIUDF alliance hopes to win several constituencies of western Assam where the minority votes play a crucial role.
The three-phase polls to the 126-seat Assam Assembly had concluded on April 6.
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