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Himanta calls for ‘compensatory’ step

- New twist to Rajya Sabha candidacy

Guwahati, Feb. 1: Having backed Sanjay Singh as the party’s Rajya Sabha nominee from Assam despite widespread condemnation, the Congress is attempting to placate the angry population with what can only be called compensatory politics.

The health and education minister in the Tarun Gogoi cabinet, Himanta Biswa Sarma, today said he would request Congress president Sonia Gandhi for nomination of two persons of Assam by the Congress from other states. This is ostensibly to remove theperception of the state being a dumping ground for “unelectable” people from other states.

“I will go to Delhi and meet Sonia Gandhi with a plea to nominate at least two persons from Assam from other states to contest Rajya Sabha seats. I have full confidence that the party high command will concede to my demand. I do not agree with the argument of Assam being used as a dumping ground by the Congress for outside leaders. We should not forget that veteran Congress leader from Barak Valley Santosh Mohan Dev was elected from Tripura West constituency twice,” Sarma told reporters here this afternoon.

Sanjay Singh, a Lok Sabha member from Sultanpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, is the Congress candidate for the three seats of Rajya Sabha from Assam which fall vacant on April 9. The elections for the seats will be held on February 7. Three other candidates are Assam PCC chief Bhubaneswar Kalita, BPF candidate Biswajit Daimary and the Opposition-backed Independent Haidar Hussain. “The BJP has no moral right to criticise the Congress for fielding Sanjay Singh for the Rajya Sabha from Assam,” Sarma said.

“Many of the BJP’s veterans, including Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh, had been elected to the Rajya Sabha from outside their home states,” he said.

Assam BJP president Sarbananda Sonowal, while continuing his criticism of the Congress on the Sanjay Singh issue, said his party would react to Sarma’s proposition when the Congress high command actually nominates two persons from Assam from other states to the Rajya Sabha.

Sarma said the Congress would not resort to any unfair practice to ensure the victory of Singh, Kalita and Daimary who is backed by the Congress. Asked about the fate of Daimary, Sarma said if the Opposition remained united and all its members cast their votes, Hussain could win the third seat to the Rajya Sabha.

The Congress was earlier planning to ensure the victory of Kalita and Singh — along with that of Daimary — by transferring its excess votes to the BPF kitty. But the plans were upset once the Opposition fielded Hussain, an eminent journalist, as its Independent candidate. A candidate will require 32 votes to win in the 126-member House. The Congress (79) and the BPF (12) combine with two Independents have 93 votes, three short to win all the three seats.

The decision of the AIUDF (18), AGP (9) and the BJP (5) to field Hussain has jeopardised Daimary’s chances of making it to the Rajya Sabha. Trinamul Congress (1), too, has not yet decided on its vote.

Sarma, however, claimed that the Congress had 94 votes (including Trinamul Congress). “But in case Daimary and Hussain get an equal number of votes, the former will sail through on the basis of 64 second preference votes of the Congress,” he said.

On the other hand, AIUDF president Badaruddin Ajmal claimed that considering Hussain’s popularity and reputation, he would get votes from Congress legislators too.

Inshalah fateh hamari hogi (God willing we will come out victorious),” Ajmal said.

ABMSU president Sahabuddin Ali Ahmed warned and said: “We would cordon off the residences of those Opposition legislators who get involve in political horse trading in this Rajya Sabha polls.