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Traders vent ire on Gogoi
- Jab at ‘blackmarketeers’ draws flak

Guwahati, May 24: Assam’s business community has taken strong exception to chief minister Tarun Gogoi casting aspersions on it by asserting that the ruling Congress can do without the votes of “blackmarketeers” of Fancy Bazar, the state capital’s business hub.

Gogoi made the comment yesterday at an official function to mark four years of his government at Dispur.

The business community, along with the Opposition AGP and BJP, were the targets of his sweeping statements at the function, which virtually saw the Congress-BPF combine launch its 2011 Assembly poll campaign.

Gogoi, while admitting the presence of “blackmarketeers”, however, did not spell out any action to eradicate the menace of blackmarketeering, which pushes up prices and causes immense harm to the poor, the section that the chief minister assiduously wooed in his speech.

The Assam Chamber of Commerce (ACC), a body of around 15,000 businessmen spread across the state, returned Gogoi’s salvo in equal measure and will submit a memorandum to the chief minister on the matter.

“The remarks were unfortunate, coming as it did from the chief minister. If there are any blackmarketeers, it cannot be without the help of politicians and bureaucrats. What is the government doing to bust this nexus? If anything, the comment only reflects the failure of Dispur,” Vijay Kumar Gupta, ACC’s city-based convenor, said.

The chamber also failed to understand how Gogoi or the Congress could know for whom the traders voted in the elections. “We have a hunch that the chief minister’s comment is some kind of a threat to businessman to side with the ruling party in the next elections. Voting is a secret exercise,” Gupta added.

The AGP this evening also paid back Gogoi in his own coin with party president Chandra Mohan Patowary asking what steps Dispur was taking to check blackmarketeers. “In our first term, we had taken tough action against several Fancy Bazar traders. Can the Gogoi government claim to have taken such a step? Whether Gogoi is a friend of Fancy Bazar or the poor is clear from the unprecedented price rise witnessed in the state!” Patowary asked.

“Gogoi says there is no difference between Ulfa and AGP. I just want to ask one thing: whose help did Gogoi take to win the 2001 elections? Who danced Bihu with Paresh Barua’s mother in Jeraigaon?” he asked.

Former Union minister and BJP national vice-president Bijoya Chakraborty also lashed out at Gogoi terming him as a “king of all liars” and an “arrogant dictator like (Adolf) Hitler.”

On the chief minister alleging that the AASU was a product of the RSS, Chakraborty said in that case, Gogoi would himself be a product of RSS, “because he happened to be an active member of the Assam Chatra Sanmilani — the mother body of the students’ union”.

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