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Cong-BPF sweeps RS polls

- Gogoi attributes win to people, discipline

Guwahati, Feb. 7: The ruling Congress-BPF alliance today swept the Rajya Sabha elections in Assam by winning all three seats.

An elated Himanta Biswa Sarma, a senior minister in the Tarun Gogoi cabinet, told reporters here this evening that Congress candidates Bhubaneswar Kalita and Sanjay Singh received 32 votes each to get elected to two of the three Rajya Sabha seats. BPF candidate Biswajit Daimary (supported by the Congress) received 29 votes. The Opposition alliance Independent candidate Haidar Hussain, an eminent journalist, received 26 votes.

“On the basis of second preference votes of Congress MLAs, Daimary was finally declared winner for the third Rajya Sabha seat. Six votes were cancelled on various grounds. Of the votes cancelled, one was cast by Trinamul MLA Dwipen Pathak. The other five were cast by MLAs from the Opposition alliance,” forest minister Rakibul Hussain, who was closely associated with today’s voting exercise, said.

The minister said the results had exposed that the Opposition alliance of AGP, BJP and AIUDF did not have any unity and had not initiated efforts to ensure Hussain’s victory. “Had the Opposition remained united, five of their votes would not have been declared cancelled. The alliance itself was formed on the basis of wrong ideologies. The people are the best judge and we leave the judgment to the people,” he alleged.

After formal clearance of the poll result by the Election Commission, returning officer G.P. Das confirmed that Kalita and Singh had received 32 votes each. He said Daimary, who got 29 votes, had won the election with the help of second preference votes of Congress MLAs, which took his tally to 33.48 votes. Hussain got 26 votes, Das clarified.

In the 126-member Assembly, a candidate needs 32 votes of MLAs to sail through the Rajya Sabha election. The Opposition alliance had 32 MLAs while the ruling alliance had 94 MLAs, including two Independents and one Trinamul.

The Opposition received a major jolt when AIUDF legislator Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuyia yesterday declared that he would not be able to reach Guwahati in time to cast his vote for the Rajya Sabha election. Mazarbhuiya, who was in Mecca to perform Haj, has been indefinitely suspended for not reaching on time to cast his vote.

The AGP this evening suspended its MLA Padma Hazarika for six years for alleged involvement in anti-party activities. AGP general secretary Durga Das Boro alleged that Hazarika had helped the victory of Congress candidates by casting his vote wrongly. AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta told The Telegraph that the MLAs whose votes got cancelled allegedly had an understanding with the Congress.

“It is a big loss for us. This will have a negative impact as for the first time even people got indirectly involved with the elections. From the Opposition, the votes of one AGP, two AIUDF and two BJP MLAs got cancelled. We have acted promptly by suspending one of our MLAs,” he said.

Hazarika, a three-term MLA, admitted tonight that he had put the “tick mark” on the ballot paper, a mistake for which he apologised.

“It should not have happened. It is a huge mistake but I have not compromised on my principles,” Hazarika said.

A candidate has to write one and two (in numbers) against candidate/s of their choice with the pen provided by the Election Commission. “The ink is of violet colour. They cannot write anything else on the ballot,” an election official said.

The effigies of Hazarika and Mazarbhuiya were burnt in Tezpur and other places. The atmosphere around Mazarbhuiya’s house in Silchar grew tense when a team of around 20 Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti activists gheraoed it around 3pm in protest against his no-show.

The AGP and the AIUDF have called emergent meetings to analyse what went wrong in their strategy to ensure Hussain’s victory.

The last time such an Opposition effort failed was in 2010. Media baron Jayanta Baruah was then backed by the Opposition but on D-day four BJP and two AIUDF MLAs voted for the Congress.

“This time no Opposition MLA voted for the ruling alliance. They were simply against the unholy alliance,” AICC secretary Bhupen Kumar Borah said to dismiss charges of horse-trading levelled by the Opposition and various organisations.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said the Rajya Sabha poll results reflected the people’s faith in the Congress despite the anti-Congress campaign by the Opposition. “Unlike the Opposition, the Congress is a very disciplined party. The inherent discipline in the party is evident in today’s result.”

Both Kalita and Daimary thanked the MLAs and the chief minister for their win.

Hussain attributed his defeat to the Congress’s policy of grabbing power by any means.

Sanjay Singh later told The Telegraph that he would first discuss with the MLAs and then prepare a roadmap of what to do. “But I assure you that I will do everything possible for the development of Assam.” Initially reluctant to comment on the protests against him, he said he believes in “jodna not todna (unity not divisiveness)”.