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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Assembly elections: Congress puts its house in order in Assam

After Gogoi senior’s death late last year, the party had feared factionalism.

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati |
Updated: March 19, 2021 7:32:15 am
Assam Assembly Elections 2021, Assam CongressAICC general secretary Jitendra Singh with Gaurav Gogoi and Pradyut Bordoloi at a rally in Nagaon. (PTI)

Ahead of the polls, the Congress appears to have got its act together in Assam, having managed to paper over cracks as well as stitch together a Mahajot (Grand Alliance), in its first election after veteran leader Tarun Gogoi’s death.

The four leaders emerging as faces of the Congress campaign are Gogoi’s son Gaurav, an MP from Kaliabor; Pradyut Bordoloi, the MP from Nagaon; Ripun Bora, the state Congress chief and a Rajya Sabha MP who is contesting the election from Gohpur; and Debabrata Saikia, the son of former CM Hiteswar Saikia and an incumbent MLA from Nazira. The Congress has not announced a Chief Minister candidate — like the BJP.

“Our campaign in Assam is one of the most united and synchronised campaigns that I have seen,” Gogoi told The Indian Express, adding that the party was focused on winning the elections and not on deciding a CM face. “The Mahajot will form the government. After that, our Congress president will decide ultimately who will be the CM.”

Bordoloi said they are working towards unity in the ranks. “That has helped us.”

After Gogoi senior’s death late last year, the party had feared factionalism. There were complaints against Bora’s leadership, including from regional parties the Congress was looking at for alliance. However, senior leaders like AICC general secretary Jitendra Singh and Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel have since helped strengthen the organisational structure.

The Congress, which holds 19 seats in the outgoing Assembly, has allied with the AIUDF (14 seats) and the Bodoland People’s Front (12 seats), along with other Left and regional parties.

Gogoi said they don’t take the BJP’s fear-mongering over the AIUDF seriously. “That (polarisation) is the BJP’s usual way of running away from real issues.”

Gogoi said his father had pushed for the alliance with the AIUDF and other like-minded parties early last year during the Rajya Sabha elections. “For the people, when we officially announced the alliance in January, it was already a fait accompli… In post-CAA Assam, the people want all parties opposed to the Act to be united.”

Also Read |Idea of Assam

Bordoloi said the BJP “will communalise because they have nothing else to say”.

The Congress has announced five guarantees for Assam if it comes to power — a law that nullifies the CAA, five lakh government jobs, raising tea workers’ wages to Rs 365, free electricity up to 200 units per household, and Rs 2,000 monthly income support to homemakers. However, influential Congress leaders are yet to make their presence felt.

Earlier this month, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra visited tea gardens in Assam. The backward tea tribes — comprising 17% of the state’s population — hold influence in almost 40 seats.

Bordoloi said their campaign strategy was different from the BJP’s. “They are spending a lot of money, the administration is with them… But we are focusing on the grassroots.”

Asked why he was not contesting from his father’s constituency, Gogoi said, “It was my father’s decision. When he was under treatment, he told me that the ticket should be given to someone outside the family.”

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