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Cong defends Gogoi remark

Guwahati, Dec. 4: The ruling Congress today came to the defence of Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi over his controversial remark that there is no Bangladeshi in the state at a public rally in minority-dominated Juria in Nagaon district on Sunday. But there is more than a buzz within party circles about the need for him to be more careful with his choice of words over the sensitive influx issue.

In the wake of the strong reaction from the Opposition and the AASU over Gogoi’s remark, Assam PCC media department chairman Haren Das issued a release this evening, saying that the chief minister’s statement was quoted out of context. He then went on to explain the “context” in which Gogoi made the statement.

“Our chief minister was referring to two-term former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and was speaking in the context of Nagaon, Mahanta’s native district, and what he had done to weed out foreigners since he had the power to act decisively. This means there are no illegal foreigners, the chief minister had said, and then talked about the steps being taken up by his government to resolve the issue, including the release of the white paper on foreigners issue. Therefore, we can say with authority that the statement was blown out of context,” Das said.

Sources said a section close to Gogoi even went through the video footage of his speech to see exactly what the chief minister had said at the rally.

This reflects the concern within the party over the statement, which the Opposition and the AASU have seized to “expose” the Gogoi government’s alleged doublespeak on an issue that evokes extreme reactions.

Gogoi had denied having said there were no Bangladeshis in the state.

“I have never denied the presence of illegal immigrants in the state. Had that been the case, my government would not have brought out the white paper on foreigners issue. It is a testimony to our resolve to solve the influx issue,” he had said before leaving for Bangkok to participate in the flag-off of the Asean-India Car Rally, 2012 at Ho Chi Minh City on Friday.

Despite the spirited defence by the Assam PCC, there was more than a murmur within party circles about the “avoidable” controversy.

Party members feel the chief minister needs to be careful about his public utterances because any off-the-cuff remark will be blown up by the Congress’s rivals in these charged times, especially with panchayat elections round the corner.

Another insider said Gogoi could have presented the matter more carefully because a word here and there gives an altogether different meaning to a statement, which may cost the party dear.