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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Student leader to PCC chief, Cong loses big NE face in Ripun Bora

A state chief for six years till 2021, 65-year-old Bora first came to the Congress as a student leader, while at Gauhati University. He then worked as a bureaucrat in the state government for about a decade before joining politics full-time.

Written by Tora Agarwala | New Delhi |
Updated: April 19, 2022 10:39:02 am
Ripun Bora with AITC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee. (Express photo)

THE ELECTORAL record of the Congress under Ripun Bora as state party chief may have been mixed. However, the exit of one of its senior-most leaders, for the Trinamool Congress, only bodes more trouble for the Congress. The immediate provocation for Bora is believed to have been the embarrassing loss for him in the recent Rajya Sabha election despite being the “joint” Opposition candidate, largely due to the Congress leadership’s failure to make up its mind on its alliance with the AIUDF.

A state chief for six years till 2021, 65-year-old Bora first came to the Congress as a student leader, while at Gauhati University. He then worked as a bureaucrat in the state government for about a decade before joining politics full-time.

While Bora had lost his debut election, from his home constituency Gohpur, in 1996, he had gone on to win twice subsequently from there fairly comfortably, in 2001 and 2006. He resigned the PCC president’s post last year after the Congress defeat in the Assembly elections, with Bora himself losing from Gohpur.

His colleagues describe him as “hardworking” – a quality which led the party high command to entrust him with several key responsibilities over the years. In the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government, Bora was minister of education, and panchayat and rural development. In 2016, after the Congress’s dramatic loss to the BJP after 15 years of ruling the state, Bora was given the mantle to revive the party.

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In his resignation letter after the 2021 loss, Bora had blamed “continuous inner fights” within the party.

Despite this second successive poll defeat under Bora, a testament of the party’s trust in him had been his nomination for a Rajya Sabha ticket.

With Bora now leaving for the TMC, which is trying to make inroads in Assam, state Congress leaders accused Bora of being “opportunistic” for deserting a party that had constantly “rewarded him”, and blamed his exit on pique over the Rajya Sabha debacle. “He is not used to staying out of power,” a senior Congress MLA from Assam said, adding that the party “gave him everything”.

The MLA also asserted that the loss would not hurt the Congress. “We admit he is hardworking, but he did not have any appeal as a mass leader,” he said.

Others said Bora played his cards like a “seasoned politician”, jumping ship given that the Congress’s fortunes are at its bleakest ever in Assam, even if for a party that is not much of a force in the state yet.

While Bora himself was unavailable for comment, Sushmita Dev, who had earlier left the Congress for the TMC, called his exit a comment on the Congress. “It is easy to call Ripun Bora a traitor, but one needs to analyse what people are thinking and doing when they resign,” she said, adding that leaders saw “little future” in the Congress. “The party should have fought tooth and nail in the recent Rajya Sabha polls, put up a united front since Bora was the last man standing in the Northeast for the party in the Rajya Sabha. But they lost, despite having the numbers,” Dev said.

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