The Congress, which under three-time Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi suffered its worst ever drubbing in the recent Assam Assembly elections, has chosen former CM Hiteswar Saikia’s son and two-time MLA, Debabrata Saikia, to lead its legislature party. On Monday, Debabrata was formally recognised as the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, where the Congress has 26 seats.
Just two weeks ago, the Congress’s attempt to pick a CLP leader had thrown up three names — Ajanta Neog, Rakibul Hussain, both three-time MLAs and former ministers, and that of Debabrata Saikia — in the presence of AICC observers Ambika Soni and C P Joshi. The central team had then left the decision on the high command.
On May 30, the party finally chose a relatively junior Saikia over Neog and Hussain, with Gogoi describing the decision as one that would help rejuvenate the state unit. “I had personally not lobbied for the CLP post, but what I later heard was that majority of the legislators had ticked my name,” said Debabrata.
He added: “I am happy that I have been entrusted with the task of leading the Congress party in the Assembly. I know it is a difficult task, especially after we lost following three consecutive victories since 2001. But I am sure I will be able to discharge my duties in such a way that the opposition will play a watchdog’s role in the true sense of the term.”
Party insiders said Debabrata was chosen as he was young and represented the influential Ahom community. Sources added that the party probably wanted to groom him as a future leader.
Born in December 1964, Debabrata’s website describes him as a leader of “quality and value” who “belongs to a blue-blooded family possessing rich culture and tradition.” The soft-spoken leader has done his BA from the Calcutta University. His mother, Hemoprova Saikia, is a CWC member.
“Though I came into active politics only in 1991 through the Youth Congress, I have seen politics and governance from close quarters. I have worked in the party upwards from block-level,” he said. Debabrata is an MLA from Nazira — a seat he has been representing since 2011.
“I have learnt the art of keeping in touch with my voters from my late father,” he said.