The Telegraph
Saturday , February 8 , 2014
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Question mark on non-Cong alliance

Guwahati, Feb. 7: An easy victory for all the three candidates of the ruling Congress-BPF alliance, including Sanjay Singh, has raised doubts about the feasibility of a united non-Congress Opposition and the influence of organisations such as the All Assam Students’ Union and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti in Assam.

The state has witnessed a series of protests from the day Singh, a sitting Congress member of the Lok Sabha from Sultanpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh, was nominated as one of the candidates for the three Rajya Sabha seats of Assam, elections for which were held today. But the protests failed to have any visible impact, at least on the day of voting or on the elected representatives.

While the Opposition camp appeared resigned and disorganised, the Congress emerged united despite doubts among its members over Singh’s nomination.

Independent MLA Jatin Mali, who cast his vote in favour of the ruling alliance’s candidate, told The Telegraph, “No one from the Opposition parties, including the AGP, the BJP and the AIUDF, formally approached me to vote for Independent candidate Haidar Hussain (backed by the Opposition camp). When Hussain called, I said it was too late.”

Mali said the protest against him by a section of people for his decision to vote for Congress candidate Sanjay Singh was immature. He said he was a representative of Palasbari and would back a candidate who would help him bring fast development to the constituency.

The former senior AGP leader also said KMSS chief Akhil Gogoi was an immature leader. “You do not have to shout or hit the streets at the drop of a hat to make people know that you are a leader. A leader must be cool, determined and sensible to lead,” he said.

AIUDF legislator Sirajuddin Ajmal said the party had expected the arrival of its MLA Ataur Rahman Mazarbhuyia in Guwahati in time to cast his vote. “What can I say about the turn of events? I am helpless and embarrassed now.”

AASU activists today burnt effigies of all the 79 Congress MLAs in their respective constituencies in protest against the nomination of Singh. “We are planning an intensified movement against the Congress’s culture of dumping outside leaders in Assam. We will continue to protest till the Congress completely stops this practice. Singh’s win does imply our defeat but if we remain focused only on one person, it will not be right,” AASU adviser Samujjal Bhattacharjya told The Telegraph.

Akhil, too, spoke of intensifying the campaign against the Congress. He said KMSS activists would stage dharnas whenever Sanjay Singh comes to Assam. “We will also stage a campaign against the legislators who helped the Congress win,” he added.

Senior AGP leader and six-term MLA Phani Bhusan Choudhury said the impact of the protests against Singh would be known only in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.

While there was a lot of unease within the Congress fold over the nomination of Sanjay Singh, the CLP remained united for the greater cause of the party, something not seen in the Opposition rank.

A senior minister said as a “disciplined” party they would follow whatever the leadership decides but they were hopeful that the leadership would get the message that fielding outsiders would harm the party in the long run. He pointed out that it was not just the Congress, other national parties such as the BJP and the Left also indulged in such practices.

Another minister said though he personally did not support such a practice, Assam had gained immensely by having Manmohan Singh as an MP from Assam. “We are sure Sanjay Singh, given his clout in Delhi, will be able to do much more for Assam. Besides, can those protesting against Sanjay Singh say how much most of our recent MPs have contributed by way of participating in debate or securing good projects?”

Rana Goswami, sitting MLA and AICC secretary, said Assam PCC would always prefer nomination of local candidates. “But Congress being a national party, we have to adjust sometimes. We have already told the high command to give adequate representation to local leaders from Assam in the Rajya Sabha. Party president Sonia Gandhi has evinced interest in fielding leaders from Assam outside the state too,” he said.

He, however, backed Sanjay Singh as a “good and influential” leader. “He can do a lot for Assam and the Congress as a Rajya Sabha member,” he added.

Bhupen Kumar Borah, a sitting MLA and AICC secretary, when asked about Himanta Biswa Sarma’s “compensatory politics” said he had already written to Sonia Gandhi on fielding candidates from Assam in other states.

Sanjay Singh, in an oblique reference to the outsider barb, said, “Bharat ek hai, mahan hai (India is one, is great)”. He thanked Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Tarun Gogoi for having faith in his ability to make him the ambassador for Assam. He promised to work for development of Assam as a “chota sa sipahi (a footsoldier).