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Cong one short of perfect 10
- Kirip chaliha makes up for dibrugarh loss

May 13: The Congress fell just one short of a third consecutive “perfect 10” in Lok Sabha elections in Assam. The party won nine of the 14 seats it contested to silence talk of the anti-incumbency bug affecting the Tarun Gogoi government.

But for the shock defeat of PCC president Paban Singh Ghatowar in Dibrugarh, the Congress’ performance would have been a sequel to the 1998 and 1999 parliamentary elections. On both occasions, the party won 10 seats. This time, it failed to retain three of its seats, but wrested Guwahati and Diphu.

The Congress’ Northeast tally, however, dipped by three seats in spite of gaining a new one, Inner Manipur. It had 14 of the 24 seats of the region in its kitty: 10 in Assam, one in Meghalaya, one in Nagaland and two in Arunachal Pradesh.

Votes polled in Outer Manipur constituency will be counted on May 19.

Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi presided over a meeting at Rajiv Bhawan, the state party headquarters, after the results were declared. He expressed shock at Ghatowar’s defeat, but said the party’s overall performance reflected the electorate’s faith in his government’s policies and performance.

The AGP, too, was happy with its own performance after drawing a blank in the 1999 polls. Party leader Biraj Sarma said the result indicated the party’s resurgence. AGP candidates won in Dibrugarh (Sarbananda Sonowal) and Lakhimpur (Arun Sarma) at the Congress’ expense.

In Tripura, the ruling Left Front retained both seats, while the BJP wrested two in Arunachal Pradesh. The ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland won the state’s lone Lok Sabha seat, as did the Mizo National Front in Mizoram.

The prominent non-Congress winners include Purno A. Sangma, who won an election in Tura constituency of Meghalaya for the eighth consecutive time. The state’s other seat, Shillong, went to Paty Ripple Kyndiah of the Congress.

Assam BJP president Indramoni Bora said it was ironical that his party’s vote-share increased from 33 per cent in 1999, but did not add to its tally of seats. The BJP won two seats, Mangaldoi and Nagaon, but the defeat in Guwahati rankled. “I take full responsibility (for the party’s showing) and am ready to quit my post if need be,” Bora said.

With the Lok Sabha poll outcome hogging all the attention, the Congress’ defeat in the byelection to the Mariani Assembly seat went virtually unnoticed. Trinamul Congress candidate Alouk Ghosh defeated his BJP rival, Binod Gogoi, by a margin of 2,671 votes. Congress candidate Nagen Tanti finished third.

The bypoll was necessitated by the death of Rupam Kurmi, who was a member of the Gogoi ministry, in February. Mariani was a Congress stronghold with Kurmi winning the seat continuously since 1991.

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