Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s two-day trip to Assam that included a seven-km padayatra in Barpeta last weekend has come as a big morale-booster for the ruling Congress party that is heading for the assembly election in April next year.
“The party workers have been highly encouraged by his visit which had witnessed massive turn-out specially during his padayatra. Thousands of people turned up along his route as well as at the rally, and this is more significant because we don’t have even one MLA in Barpeta district,” Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said. The Barpeta Lok Sabha, which was traditionally with the Congress for long, was won by the AIUDF in 2014.
Rahul Gandhi’s interactive session with women self-help groups meanwhile highlighted how several schemes introduced by the Congress government in the state had helped to bring women empowerment across the state. The Congress vice-president in fact showered lot of praise on Chief Minister Gogoi for initiating some schemes benefiting women across the state.
“I am impressed by the level of empowerment that women have achieved in the last 14 years of Congress rule under Tarun Gogoi’s leadership. Unlike most other states where men have to stand behind women, in Assam women have been able to stand on their own feet with pride,” Gandhi had remarked after his interaction with a group of women who have been empowered through poultry, weaving, pig-rearing and other activities supported by various subsidy schemes.
Meanwhile, encouraged by the response to Rahul Gandhi’s padayatra, as also his interaction with women SHGs, Guwahati-based intellectuals along with senior media persons, Chief Minister Gogoi said that the Congress party would alone contest in the forthcoming Assam Assembly elections. “The Congress victory is certain. We will have no alliances. We want to continue the process of peace and development which we had set forth way back in 2001,” Gogoi said.
“The massive turn-out in Rahul Gandhi’s padayatra in Barpeta is indicator that the voter has changed his mind since the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The Congress popularity is on the rise,” Gogoi claimed. Rahul Gandhi’s padayatra last Saturday, which began from the heart of Barpeta town which is also famous for a 16th century vaishnavite monastery, had culminated in Medhirtari, a Muslim stronghold.
Assam has been witnessing a significant downslide in the Congress’ popularity in the last two years beginning with the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In February, this year the BJP literally swept the municipal elections across Assam, winning a majority in 38 out of the 74 municipal boards and town committees, while the Congress remained content by winning a majority in only 17. The BJP won in as many as 340 wards, and the Congress in 232 followed by AGP (39), AIUDF (8), NCP (4), and BPF and CPI-M (one each).
Gogoi’s assertion among speculation and reports from the national capital, that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had initiated a move to help forge an alliance between the Congress and Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). The latter party, which has a strong grip over the Muslims, had won three Lok Sabha seats out of 14 in the state in 2014. The Congress too had won only three seats against seven by the BJP.
Nitish Kumar, according to media reports emanating from the national capital, has been trying to bring the Congress and AIUDF closer to prevent the BJP winning the ensuing Assam assembly election. The Bihar chief minister is also reportedly trying to rope in the Asom Gana Parishad into the anti-BJP combination.
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