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Scandal hits Cong

Guwahati, May 8: Linked to a murdered Patna call girl in a sensational crime report on television, Assam Congress veteran Sarat Barkatoky today accused “criminal-minded” party colleagues with a “destructive agenda” of trying to defame him ever since media reports named him as a contender for the chief ministership.

“We have already apprised the high command about their activities and they have been identified,” he said, flanked by legislators Ardhendu Dey and Robin Bordoloi and Lok Sabha MP Kirip Chaliha.

Barkatoky, one of those dropped from the ministry during the downsizing exercise in 2004, is being talked about as one of the potentially deserving replacements for Tarun Gogoi in the event of the Congress retaining power. Gogoi is ostensibly not favoured for a second term in office because of his failure to keep the Congress’ main voter base, the minorities and the tea tribes, happy.

However, nobody would have expected the power tussle in the Congress to degenerate into mudslinging just a few days before the declaration of the election results.

The report naming Barkatoky as an acquaintance of the murdered call girl, Monica Tiwari, was aired by a national television channel on Saturday and immediately became fodder for the local electronic media. The report claimed that a visiting card of the veteran MLA was found in the girl’s Patna flat.

Neither Barkatoky nor the colleagues by his side named the “conspirators”, but did say that the prime targets of the “ugly campaign” were the very leaders who were dropped from the ministry two years ago.

The former PWD minister, who is from Sonari in Sivasagar district of Upper Assam, said “mafia raj, blackmail and character assassination” had become an integral part of politics in the state. “It is unfortunate that our polity has stooped to such levels.”

He also complained about shabby treatment by the party leadership. “They couldn’t do anything without Barkatoky at one time. But once their tasks were accomplished, it did not take much time for them to forget Barkatoky.”

He claimed he was not in the race for the chief ministership, but was expecting more “malicious campaigns” aga-inst him and some other leaders in the run-up to the formation of a new government.

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