The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong staves off PCC poll

Guwahati, May 14: PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita is all set to lead the party in next year’s Assembly polls, with his re-election coming through with a flurry of realpolitik.

The Congress managed to stave off elections to the top post through deft manoeuvring, ensuring that there will be no showdown within the party.

Late last night, the party decided that filing of nominations would be completed by 2 pm today, catching all of Kalita’s challengers on the wrong foot.

By the time the deadline ended today, Kalita was the only leader to file his papers. A party source said after scrutiny of the papers was completed by additional Pradesh returning officer J. Thekral, deputed by the AICC, Kalita’s nomination was found to be valid. “Now, only the formality of officially announcing Kalita as the winner remains. And this will be done on Tuesday,” a senior party leader said.

A source in the party revealed that some of the prospective contenders to the top post ' including senior leader Sarat Barkataki ' were caught completely unawares. A close aide of Barkataki, who is now in his constituency Sonari, said the former PWD minister was angered by the “undemocratic” manner in which the election process was completed.

Lok Sabha MP Kirip Chaliha and Rajya Sabha MP Dwijen Sarma ' two other contenders to the post ' managed to reach Guwahati from New Delhi only after 2 pm. Both of them immediately rushed to the hotel where the AICC poll official has put up, to lodge a written protest.

Sarma told mediapersons that both had flown down to Guwahati specifically to file their papers. However, the Gogoi camp dismissed the charges, with a source arguing that “any serious candidate would have done his homework before and not waited for the last moment”.

Congress leaders were worried that a contest ahead of the Assembly elections could send the wrong signals to the voters.

With the party high command hinting at early polls, the chief minister is said to have put his “best men” on the job to ensure that Kalita walks away with the post. This is also aimed at scotching rumours that he did not get along with Kalita.

AICC general secretary in charge of Assam, Digvijay Singh, issued strict instructions to the state unit to set its house in order and set a deadline for the PCC presidential election during his recent visit here.

He had also asked the party leadership to evolve a consensus on the issue.

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