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Trip letdown galls Gogoi

Guwahati, April 17: The Tarun Gogoi camp in the Assam Congress is up in arms against the schedule managers of Sonia Gandhi.

Top Congress leaders in the party president’s coterie have reportedly upset the Gogoi camp’s much-hyped plans to use “Sonia power” to counter the new-found aggression of the BJP in Assam and the rest of the Northeast.

The high command this evening shot down a proposal to schedule a visit to the state by Sonia for a public meeting on April 26. The programme had been chalked out primarily to check the BJP onslaught.

Such is the level of discontent in the Gogoi camp that it has accused the high command of adopting a “stepmotherly attitude” towards Assam in general and the state unit of the party in particular. Some Congress leaders have accused Sonia’s aides of being selfish.

“They want to be with her to further their own personal interests now that general elections are near. Sonia Gandhi being on tour means their plans and programmes are altered,” a senior Congressman said.

Sources said party leaders were now lobbying the high command to fix a new date for Sonia’s visit. Leaders of the Gogoi group went into a huddle today to convince “madam” to undertake the tour.

With the high command ruling out the proposed April 26 trip, the Paban Singh Ghatowar camp is separately trying to organise a visit by Sonia. “It is a game of one-upmanship. Success for the Ghatowar camp will be a big boost for the Gogoi-baiters,” a party insider said.

To appease Sonia, a section of party members even suggested that she contest a “safe” seat in Assam in the elections next year.

Ghatowar fuelled speculation about the proposal to field Sonia in Koliabor Lok Sabha constituency by saying, “Why only Koliabor' My constituency, Dibrugarh, is also a safe seat.”

Koliabor has always been a Congress stronghold. The chief minister had represented the constituency in Parliament before his brother, Dip Gogoi, contested and won the seat.

The political mercury started soaring after the BJP rolled out “saffron raths” from the four corners of Assam to “mobilise public support” for its campaign against the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act and highlight the need to counter ISI activity in the state.

Four Union ministers were roped in for the jana jagaran yatra, which culminated in a rally here on April 7. BJP president Venkaiah Naidu addressed the meeting at Judges Field.

The BJP later announced that it had appointed a “guardian” Union minister for each of the northeastern states to oversee the implementation of Centre-aided programmes.

The Congress high command had responded to the BJP’s march by deputing Mohsina Kidwai, AICC general secretary in charge of Assam, to address public rallies in three districts on the eve of the rally at Judges Field.

Congress insiders said Kidwai asked leaders of the party’s state unit to forget their differences and get down to the task of countering the BJP’s advance in a united manner.

Kidwai had clarified that the high command did not intend to appoint a deputy to the “ailing” chief minister, as had been demanded by his detractors in the party.

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