The Telegraph
Saturday , February 1 , 2014
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Cong refuses to budge on Singh

Jan. 31: The Congress did not budge despite widespread protests and a near physical confrontation between Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) workers and Sanjay Singh on Wednesday.

With the deadline for withdrawing nomination papers over at 3pm today, all four candidates, including Singh, are now in the fray for the state’s election to three Rajya Sabha seats on February 7.

Assam PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita today reiterated that the Congress had only two contestants (Singh and himself) in the fray and the party was confident that both would win.

Evading a direct reply on the fate of Bodo Peoples’ Front (BPF) candidate Biswajit Daimary, Kalita said with 79 MLAs in the 126-member Assam Assembly the Congress could ensure the victory of only two candidates. “It will be unfair on my part to comment on the prospects of victory of the third candidate (Biswajit Daimary),” he told reporters at Rajiv Bhawan in Guwahati.

On the other hand, chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who was in Dibrugarh today, told the media that the Congress would ensure the victory of Daimary in the ensuing Rajya Sabha elections. Gogoi, however, refused to elaborate on how the victory would be possible.

Though backed by the ruling Congress, the BPF does not have the numbers to make sure Dairmary’s victory if the Opposition remains united.

Earlier the Congress had planned to ensure the victories of its two candidates — Bhubaneswar Kalita and Sanjay Singh — along with that of Daimary, by transferring its excess votes to the BPF kitty. But the plans were upset once the Opposition fielded Independent Haidar Hussain as its candidate. Hussain is an eminent journalist.

A candidate will need 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 plan of the AIUDF (18), AGP (9) and BJP (5) to field Hussain has jeopardised Daimary’s chances of making it to the Rajya Sabha. Trinamul Congress (1), too, has decided to cast its vote against the ruling alliance.

The BPF, which yesterday threatened to withdraw the nomination of Daimary fearing his defeat, today said it has confidence in its alliance partner Congress to ensure his victory. The BPF leader, who was very vocal yesterday, preferred to stay away from the media today.

BTC chief and BPF president Hagrama Mohilary said chief minister Tarun Gogoi had promised that the BPF’s candidate would be the alliance’s second choice.

“We are confident that the Congress leaders will keep their promise and ensure our candidate’s victory,” Mohilary said.

The KMSS has taken the Congress’s arrogance of not withdrawing the candidature of Sanjay Singh as a challenge. Its president Akhil Gogoi has threatened to gherao the houses of MLAs who would be involved in horse-trading in the February 7 election.

AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya said agitation against the Congress and “outside leaders” like Sanjay Singh would not stop. “We will take a decision on agitation before the election,” he said.

In Shillong, the Northeast Congress Co-ordination Committee (NECCC) chairman D.D. Lapang today defended the AICC’s decision to field Singh from Assam. Lapang did not agree with the allegation that the Northeast is being used as a “dumping ground” to rehabilitate Congress leaders from elsewhere.

“I do not take it that way (that the Northeast is now a dumping ground). A Congressman can be used anywhere in the country. For instance, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not from Assam, but he is a Rajya Sabha member from there. The judgement of the AICC is final, and we cannot question that,” Lapang, who is also the Meghalaya PCC chief, said.

The former Meghalaya chief minister was bombarded with queries over the decision of the Congress leadership in Delhi to field the Uttar Pradesh leader from the neighbouring state, which has created a political storm.

He also refused to answer whether there was a dearth of leaders in the Assam Congress, thereby, prompting the leadership to import “outsiders”.