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Bid to check AIUDF sway

Guwahati, Nov. 23: The ruling Congress will be targeting Opposition strongholds in the run-up to the panchayat polls in an attempt to retain its hold on the rural bodies as well as checkmate the growth of the AIUDF and BJP before the 2014 parliamentary elections.

Both Assam PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita and chief minister Tarun Gogoi revealed the move during the inspection of preparations today for tomorrow’s “massive” Congress workers’ rally here to galvanise party hands from across the state for the panchayat elections early next year.

The Congress had comfortably won the last two panchayat polls but is expected to face a fight from the AIUDF and BJP, who seem to have been recharged with the series of unsavoury incidents to hit Assam, particularly the ongoing unrest in the BTAD.

Kalita told The Telegraph at Rajiv Bhawan here this afternoon that they will be concentrating on constituencies held by Opposition MLAs. The party had won 78 seats in the 2011 Assembly elections while the Opposition AIUDF captured 18, AGP got 10 and BJP five seats. Kalita admitted the AIUDF would be a challenge but that the party would equally concentrate on AGP and BJP-held Legislative Assembly constituencies.

“We are well-placed in the constituencies held by our MLAs, as they have implemented the state government’s welfare and development schemes. We will now mobilise our workers to intensify such efforts in Opposition-held LACs,” he said.

The Guwahati rally will be followed by district-level rallies in Barpeta and Dhubri in lower Assam, Kalita said, a further sign of the party’s attempt to dent inroads made by the AIUDF into minority-dominated areas after the recent Kokrajhar riots.

Congress insiders said that if the AIUDF is not checked in the panchayat polls, it could become a major headache in lower Assam as well as Barak valley, where Muslims play a decisive role.

Similarly, the appointment of Sarbananda Sonowal, a former AASU and AGP leader, as the new president of BJP, has given a fresh impetus to the saffron party, after it was virtually decimated by the Congress in the Assembly elections.

“They could pose a challenge in some LACs in Upper Assam and they need to be checked,” Congress insiders said.

On the other hand, AIUDF chief Maulana Badruddin Ajmal today asserted that his party was 15 times ahead of the Congress in terms of preparedness for panchayat polls and termed tomorrow’s rally as a “hired” show of strength.