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Bhupen to contest, Gogoi sees no threat

Guwahati, March 2: The BJP today officially confirmed that Bhupen Hazarika would contest the Lok Sabha elections. But chief minister Tarun Gogoi dismissed any threat from the music maestro, terming him a “political nonentity who does not know a thing about elections”.

Confirming Hazarika’s candidature, BJP’s national vice-president Pyarelal Khandelwal said the party was yet to finalise a constituency for the balladeer. A decision will be taken after discussing the matter with Hazarika, he said.

The BJP leader claimed that Hazarika has not given any seat preference though party insiders said that the Dadasaheb Phalke Award winner “may prefer to contest from Guwahati”.

The party’s state election committee, which met this morning, “discussed the question of vacating the Guwahati seat in his favour”, sources said.

Union minister of state for water resources Bijoya Chakraborty is the sitting MP in Guwahati.

When asked whether she would vacate the seat for Hazarika, Chakraborty avoided a direct reply and merely said, “The party will give him whichever seat he wants. But one should not drag him into any controversy.”

The list of 72 probable candidates shortlisted by the state election committee for 13 Lok Sabha seats today did not contain Hazarika’s name as he joined the BJP after local units proposed the names of the contenders, state unit president Indramoni Bora said.

This means that the party’s central election committee would unilaterally decide Hazarika’s constituency.

Bora claimed that Hazarika’s entry into the BJP “has boosted our prospects in Assam as well as in other states like West Bengal. These state units want him to campaign for them.”

However, the chief minister pricked the BJP balloon, saying Hazarika “is no threat to the Congress.

“We respect him as the state’s cultural icon. But with due respect to him, what does he know about politics and elections'” Gogoi asked. “The people of Assam will not accept him as a politician”.

Gogoi even ridiculed Hazarika as a “capitalist at heart”, taking a dig at the maestro’s “voice” on behalf of the downtrodden. In a statement, Hazarika defended the BJP over the controversy involving his nomination to the Rajya Sabha last year, saying the entire brouhaha was fuelled by “media speculation”.

He added that after meeting Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani and senior leader Sushma Swaraj, “I came away from the meeting totally convinced that for the first time in this country’s history, the BJP and its allies have emerged as a political force that is leading this country in the right direction”.

He signed off saying he was always committed to the welfare of the people. “I hope my people will appreciate my feelings and help me serve them”, Hazarika added.

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