| Congress supporters celebrate the bypoll victory at Rajiv Bhawan in Guwahati. Picture by Eastern Projections |
Guwahati/Tezpur/ Dhubri, Nov. 10: The ruling Congress in Assam today dealt a double blow to the Opposition, wresting both the Assembly seats for which byelections were held on November 7.
The Congress won back the Dhekiajuli seat from the AGP, which had held it for 13 years and the South Salmara seat from the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) which had fielded party president Badruddin Ahmal’s son Abdur Rahman Ajmal as its candidate.
The wins assume significance for the Congress because they came from minority-dominated South Salmara and Adivasi-dominated Dhekiajuli — two communities which were apparently drifting away from the party.
Ajmal junior failed to stop the return of former minister Wajed Ali Choudhury who secured 53,469 votes against the greenhorn’s 49,196.
Similarly, former Congress MLA Bhimananda Tanti got 54,486 votes while debutant Siba Charan Sahu of the AGP received 32,939 votes in Dhekiajuli. Lenin Basumatary of the AIUDF got 14,534.
The victory in South Salmara also helped the Congress check the upsurge of the AIUDF and leave the AGP in tatters by winning in the latter’s stronghold.
A win for the AIUDF, a PCC leader said, would have have spelt disaster for the party in the long run.
“We would have lost lower Assam in the long run. Our workers would have been forced to play second fiddle to the AIUDF as they are doing to BPF in the BTAD,” he said.
The victory was greeted with crackers and sweets at the Congress headquarters in Guwahati twice during the day.
The win is supremely important for chief minister Tarun Gogoi who had deputed two of his closest cabinet aides — Himanta Biswa Sarma (Dhekiajuli) and Rockybul Hussain (South Salmara) to ensure the party’s win.
Party president Bhubaneswar Kalita, and leaders Nurjamal Sarkar, Nazrul Islam and Ajit Singh also pitched in to ensure the party’s success.
Days ahead of the election, both the constituencies resembled Dispur, given the presence of VIPs. Gogoi said at Rajiv Bhawan that he was a little apprehensive about winning in South Salmara because of religious sentiments.
“I am very happy with these wins. It was, after all, the bastions of the AGP and the AIUDF. Ajmal is a thing of the past. He had tried to win the seat by fielding his son but that, too, did not work. The people have understood the AIUDF’s brand of politics. This win is the win of the good work our government has done. This win is a victory of secular forces — it has proved that the tea tribes and Muslims are very much with the Congress, unlike what some people say”.
He took the opportunity to take a dig at the anti-Gogo i camp in the party.
“This time we worked as a team. I hope we will continue to work together like this in future also. The win has only increased our responsibility and set the stage for the 2011 Assembly elections which we are sure to win,” he said.
PCC president Kalita lauded the efforts of the workers, ministers and the government’s pro-development policies for the victory. “I hope this victory run will continue in 2011,” he said.
The win takes the Congress’ strength in the 126-member Assembly to 56, followed by coalition partner BPF’s 11, AGP’s 24, BJP 10, AIUDF 9, CPM 2, CPI 1, NCP 1, ASDC 1 and Independents 11, of whom seven are associate members of the ruling party.
The AIUDF and the AGP, on the other hand, attributed the defeat to rigging, money and muscle power and promises made by the chief minister during campaigning.