The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Incumbency jinx broken

Guwahati, May 11: A former militant leader became an unlikely kingmaker after the verdict of Elections 2006 in Assam threw up a hung Assembly.

The ruling Congress ended up with only 53 seats in its kitty, 18 less than its 2001 tally, but still looked on course to forming the next government with the support of the Bodo People’s Progressive Front (BPPF) of Hagrama Mohilary, who had previously led the militant Bodo Liberation Tigers.

The Congress’ position of strength had as much to do with the Asom Gana Parishad’s flop show ' it did increase its seat count from 20 to 24 but that was small consolation for a party hoping to form the government ' as with the strategic pre-poll alliance with the BPPF.

“I was confident of forming the government and we will form the government now,” chief minister Tarun Gogoi told the media.

Mohilary batted for Gogoi, saying he was hoping that there would be no change in the Congress leadership. “This leadership has done well for the state’s progress and for the Bodo areas and I hope it remains unchanged. Change could affect the process of development,” he said.

Since 1972, no party or alliance has retained power in Assam.

All newly-elected legislators of the Congress will meet on Saturday to elect the legislature party leader. The new government is likely to be sworn in by Monday.

The Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), a conglomerate of minorities, did well with a tally of 10 seats on its election debut. Eight of these seats were wrested from the Congress. However, the role it was expected to play in government formation in the event of a fractured verdict has been hijacked by the BPPF.

For the Congress, satisfaction came not just from its unexpected situation of strength but also its performance in the tea belt. The party won in most of the constituencies dominated by the tea tribes, who were supposed to have been disenchanted with the Gogoi government for various reasons.

The BJP improved on its 2001 performance by two seats, taking its tally to 10. One of the surprise gains for the party was debutant Prasanta Phukan’s victory by a slender margin in Dibrugarh, a seat that the Congress had always won.

Former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta retained the Barhampur seat, but his AGP (Pragatisheel) was routed. Mahanta had contested the Nagaon seat, too, but lost the race. Like Mahanta, AGP president Brindaban Goswami retained Tezpur and lost Borcholla.

As many as five ministers lost the elections, as did PCC chief Bhubaneswar Kalita.

The Congress swept most of the Upper Assam districts and held on to its position in the Barak Valley, North Cachar Hills and Karbi Anglong. The erosion of support was in the minorities-dominated central Assam district of Nagaon and pockets of Lower Assam.

For student leaders-turned-politicians, the people’s verdict was not favourable. Former All Assam Students Union president Prabin Boro, who contested as an AGP candidate from Barama, and All Bodo Students Union chief Rabiram Narzary, who was in battle for the Kokrajhar East seat as an Independent, bit the dust. Former NSUI chief and Congress nominee Rekibuddin Ahmed lost in Chaygaon.

The only victor among the crop of student leaders in transition was former tea tribes students union chief Durga Bhumij, who made his debut in Doomdooma as a Congress nominee. He defeated Dileswar Tanti, who had contested the poll on an NCP ticket after being denied one by the Congress.

The biggest comeback victory was that of Pradip Hazarika, who stunned transport minister Anjan Dutta in Amguri. Hazarika, in a Delhi hospital nursing injuries sustained in a suspected Ulfa attack on Tuesday, said: “It is because of the blessings of the people of Assam that I survived. It is because of the love and support of people of Amguri that I won.”

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