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Assam bypolls: Fate of Congress, AIUDF turncoats who joined BJP at stake

After its split with Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF, Congress is going solo, fielding its own candidates in all the five seats. After a disappointing performance in the Assembly election, the party attempted to forge a deal with regional players like Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal (RD) but it did not work out.

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
October 29, 2021 6:35:12 pm
Rupjyoti Kurmi, Sushanta Borgohain and Phanidhar Talukdar (Express photos)

As the five assembly constituencies in Assam (Gossaigaon, Tamulpur, Bhabanipur, Mariani and Thowra) go to vote on Saturday, at stake is the fate of three turncoats — two from Congress and one from All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) — who joined BJP just weeks after getting elected in the Assembly elections.

While the bypolls in Gossaigaon and Tamulpur constituencies were necessitated due to death of the sitting MLAs, the bypolls to Bhabanipur, Mariani and Thowra was a result of the legislators of these seats resigning to join BJP.

In Mariani, four-time Congress legislator and prominent tea tribe leader Rupjyoti Kurmi joined BJP in June. He was followed by two-time Thowra MLA Sushanta Borgohain in August. Borgohain was associated with Congress from his student days. In September, AIUDF MLA from Bhabanipur, Phanidhar Talukdar resigned from the party to join the BJP.

“If elected members resign from their posts and join another party, it is a reflection of the strength, popularity and acceptability of the party…and that is what BJP in Assam has right now under the leadership of Himanta Biswa Sarma,” said BJP spokesperson Pabitra Margherita.

After assuming office in May, the bypolls are Sarma’s first electoral test as the Chief Minister. “We are confident of winning not just these three seats but also the other two where our ally UPPL is fighting,” added Margherita. The BJP has left Gossaigaon and Tamulpur – which fall under the Bodo Territorial Region (BTR) — for its Bodo ally UPPL.

Meanwhile, after its split with Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF, Congress is going solo, fielding its own candidates in all the five seats. After a disappointing performance in the Assembly election, the party attempted to forge a deal with regional players like Akhil Gogoi’s Raijor Dal (RD) but it did not work out since the two were adamant on contesting from the high stakes Thowra seat in Upper Assam. While Congress has put up Manuranjan Konwar, Gogoi’s close aide Dhoijyo Konwar is contesting on an RD ticket.

“We cannot deny that there will be a split in anti-BJP votes in seats like Thowra. However, we are focusing on issues like price rise, which has continued to hit people hard,” said state Congress president Bhupen Borah, adding, that although their MLAs had switched over, apart from a minimum number of workers who went with them, there was no mass shift to BJP.

“Anyway most people vote the symbols and in constituencies like Mariani, the hand (Congress) symbol has ruled for several years,” he said.

Meanwhile, RD — with Gogoi out of jail — has been running a sustained grassroots campaign in the Mariani and Thowra seats. Commentators say they may emerge as a third player in the Thowra seat.

In Bhabanipur, the contest is likely to be between Talukdar, who moved to BJP, and his former party AIUDF. In Tamulpur, UPPL will take on Congress, while in Gossaigaon, UPPL will take on both AIUDF and Congress. Hagrama Mahilary-led Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) will also contest from the Gossaigaon seat.

Bypolls in Meghalaya and Mizoram

Three seats in Meghalaya (Mawryngkneng and Mawphlang in East Khasi Hills and Rajabala in West Garo Hills) and one in Mizoram (Tuirial in Kolasib district) will go to polls Saturday. These constituencies fell vacant after the death of the sitting MLAs.

In Meghalaya, allies of the ruling Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA) are fighting each other in Rajabala and Mawphlang seats, with Congress — which is contesting in all the three seats — hoping to benefit from the division of votes.

The MDA alliance has Chief Minister Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP), United Democratic Party (UDP), BJP and regional parties like Hill State People’s Democratic Party (HSPDP), People’s Democratic Front (PDF), among others, as its constituents.

In Rajabala, three MDA alliance partners — NPP, UDP and BJP — have fielded candidates, while Mawphlang is being contested both by NPP and UDP. However, in Mawryngkneng, UDP is supporting its ally NPP.

In Mizoram’s Turial seat, which is vacant after the demise of Zoram People’s Movement MLA Andrew H Thangliana, there are four candidates in the fray — from the ruling Mizo National Front, ZPM, Congress, and BJP.

Counting for all the nine seats is scheduled for November 2.

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