| Ripun Bora, Assam panchayat and rural development minister, and Kishore Bhattacharjee, spokesperson for the Assam PCC, tonsure their heads demanding that party president Sonia Gandhi change her decision, at Rajiv Bhawan in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by Biju Boro
Guwahati, May 19: Assam minister Ripun Bora and two PCC secretaries today tonsured their heads in protest against the BJP’s persistent campaign against Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Anti-BJP slogans rent the air as Bora, who is minister of state for panchayat and rural development in the Tarun Gogoi government, and PCC secretaries J.K. Pandey and Kishore Bhattacharjee publicly got their heads shaved.
The three Congress leaders described their move as a riposte to Sushma Swaraj’s announcement that she would tonsure her head if Sonia became Prime Minister.
Bora said BJP leaders such as Swaraj and Uma Bharti had undermined the people’s mandate and impeded the country’s development by harping on the Congress chief’s foreign origin.
The despondency in the state Congress headquarters over “Madam” declining to “keep her date with destiny” was, however, balanced by political unanimity over Manmohan Singh taking over the prime ministership.
Setting aside their political differences, the BJP and the AGP joined the Congress in rejoicing over the Rajya Sabha MP from Assam being chosen for the country’s top executive post.
Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said over phone from New Delhi that Singh “knows the state very well and I don’t have to brief him about our requirements”. He said the state unit of the Congress was ready to “sacrifice one MP” to enable the former finance minister to be elected to the Lok Sabha.
“We are very happy that for the first time, an MP from the state will become the Prime Minister of the country,” BJP Legislature Party leader Bimalangsu Roy said.
He hoped a “local MP” becoming Prime Minister would get the state more attention and financial assistance from Delhi. “He has been sent to the Rajya Sabha thrice from the state. So, he will definitely have a soft corner for the people of Assam,” the BJP leader said.
The Congress’ main rival in Assam, the AGP, expressed similar sentiments. AGP general secretary Hitendra Nath Goswami said the state would expect Singh to keep its interests in mind at all times. He said the soft-spoken Congress leader’s “clean image” could add a new dimension to Indian polity.
A motley crowd gathered outside the two-room rented house of the Prime Minister-in-waiting at Sarumotoria earlier in the day, prompting the police to intensify security arrangements in the locality. The house is located within the sprawling residential campus of minister Hemoprova Saikia, wife of the late Hiteswar Saikia.
“It is a proud moment for Assam and like everyone in the state, I am very happy that he is going to occupy this position. He has always had a special place for Assam in his heart,” she said, delighted that her tenant was on the verge of becoming Prime Minister.
Sonia yesterday drew back from the chair before the last step, becoming the first democratically elected leader to decline the prime ministership. She appealed to her supporters to allow her to make her own decision, saying she was listening to the call of her “inner voice”.