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Hurdles in Handique’s path

Sivasagar, Jan. 30: With Jorhat MP Bijoy Krishna Handique’s Lok Sabha constituency already facing challenge from five other aspirants for the Congress ticket, the veteran leader has to now cross another major hurdle to be considered as the party’s candidate.

A source in the Congress said other than his age and health, factors that have become a major hurdle in his quest for the party ticket, opposition to his candidature by a section of the Sivasagar district Congress committee, including from the district Congress president Tulsi Gogoi, has sprung as another hurdle for the former Union minister.

Of the 10 Assembly constituencies in the Jorhat Lok Sabha constituency, six are in Sivasagar district. “Majority of voters in Jorhat constituency belong to Sivasagar district and it would be very difficult for Handique to win the elections without the support of the Sivasagar district Congress,” the source added.

Jorhat Lok Sabha constituency comprises four Assembly seats of Jorhat, Mariani, Teok and Titabor in Jorhat district and Sivasagar, Thowra, Amguri, Mah-mora, Nazira and Sonari constituencies in Sivasagar district.

“The six constituencies of Sivasagar district play a vital role in the election of candidates to the Jorhat constituency. In the 2009 election, Handique polled 2,11,508 votes in the six constituencies of Siva-sagar district while he managed only 1,49,882 votes in the four constituencies of Jorhat district,” the source said.

He said if Handique is allotted the party ticket and a section of the Congress workers and leaders of Sivasagar district continue to oppose him during the run-up to the election campaign, it would be very difficult for the veteran leader to win.

“Handique won the last elections by defeating the BJP’s Kamakhya Tasa by 71,541 votes. Handique could manage to take the lead with 53,762 votes in Sivasagar district, whereas he managed a lead of only 17,779 votes in Jorhat district,” the source said.

The sitting MP is a resident of Jorhat and a section of disgruntled Congressman of Sivasagar district has been accusing Handique of showing favouritism to Jorhat district in the execution of development projects. They have also demanded the Congress high command to allot the party ticket to a candidate from Sivasagar district.

Sivasagar district Congress president Tulsi Gogoi said a section of the district Congress workers had approached the Congress high command to demand for a candidate from Sivasagar district in the ensuing polls. “Since the delimitation of constituencies in 1963, candidates from Jorhat district have been allotted the Congress party ticket from Jorhat constituency. This has led to resentment among the party workers of Sivasagar district. We, therefore, approached the party high command to consider a candidate from the district for the ensuing polls,” he said.

After the delimitation of constituencies, the then Sivasagar sub-division came under Jorhat Lok Sabha constituency. Prior to that, Sivasagar and Jorhat were separate parliamentary constituencies.

Tulsi Gogoi said all the candidates hail from Jorhat district and the matter came up for discussion during the recent executive Sivasagar district Congress committee meeting.

“However, a resolution to this effect could not be taken because of differences in opinion among the present members,” he said.

“Besides me, the three-member panel list which has been sent by the district committee for the Jorhat constituency comprises of B.K. Handique and Sameer Gogoi,” he said.

Another source in the Sivasagar district Congress committee said the party would definitely maintain discipline in case Handique is allotted the party ticket. “We will definitely appeal to our party workers to support the Congress candidate. But considering the ground reality and the sentiment of the workers, we are not sure if Handique would get mass support in case he is allotted the party ticket,” the source added.