The Telegraph
Friday , May 30 , 2014
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Cong meet blames infighting

Guwahati, May 29: The first stock-taking meeting convened by the Assam Congress on the poll debacle in the state today saw district unit presidents “mainly blame” dissidence within the Congress Legislature Party for its worst-ever performance in the Lok Sabha polls.

Most participants also blamed the continued ignoring of party workers by most state ministers, something that left the foot soldiers demoralised. The Congress won three seats, down from seven in 2009. Price rise, UPA government scams and the Modi wave were also cited as factors responsible for the debacle but covert and overt dissidence against party candidates, fuelled by some CLP members, figured prominently in the meet, party insiders privy to the developments told The Telegraph this evening.

PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita, who met the district Congress committee presidents under each Lok Sabha constituency in a group for half-an-hour to one hour during the daylong meet at Rajiv Bhawan here, also met all of them together after the meet. Other senior leaders were also present during these meetings. Assam has 14 Lok Sabha seats.

Of the 27 district Congress committees, Hailakandi, Silchar, Jorhat, Sivasagar and Dhemaji skipped the meeting. District committees most vocal against dissidence were Dhubri, Lakhimpur, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia and Guwahati.

“We analysed why the BJP did well despite not having an organisational network. In fact, they did not even have posters and banners in some places. All our district committees said the main cause for the debacle was dissidence against party candidates. Ministerial apathy towards party workers also figured in the discussions. Everybody wants an end to the infighting within the CLP,” a PCC general secretary told The Telegraph.

There was near unanimity that though the difference in vote-share between the Congress and the winners in some places was minor, the shift of AGP and first-time voters to the BJP cost the Congress dear.

“Polarisation along religious lines after Modi’s exhaustive campaign in the state also saw the party’s Muslim votes shift to the AIUDF, which was the other major gainer with three seats after the BJP, which registered its best performance in the state with seven seats,” one of them said.

Modi addressed eight rallies in Assam, flagging the illegal Bangladeshi and rhino-poaching issues to the hilt.

Kalita is understood to have directed the DCC presidents to hold similar stock-taking at the district level by June 7 by involving the block Congress committees. Once the reports of the district units come in, the extended PCC executive will be convened where all legislators and MPs will participate, among others.

Today’s stock-taking came against the backdrop of intense efforts by the Himanta Biswa Sarma-led dissident camp in Delhi to oust Gogoi. Any such move has, however, been rejected by the high command for the moment. A three-member team set up by AICC president Sonia Gandhi is now busy trying to reconcile the warring groups to ensure that the party does not suffer a similar fate in the 2016 Assembly elections.

There is widespread apprehension among PCC leaders that if dissident activities go unchecked, the party will face a tough time checking the challenge mounted by the BJP in Upper Assam, central Assam and the north bank, and the AIUDF in lower Assam. Both the BJP and the AIUDF are equally strong in Barak Valley.

The BJP has already launched “Mission 84” (winning two-thirds of the 126 seats in Assam) and the AIUDF “Mission 40” for the 2016 Assembly polls. Reacting to the two missions, Kalita said the party would announce its plans as and when the time comes.

Party insiders claimed that the Sarma camp was not averse to a “reasonable reconciliation” since the high command was solidly behind Assam’s longest-serving chief minister who has maintained a studied silence since his meeting with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi last week. Gogoi’s offer to resign, owning moral responsibility, has been rejected by the duo.

The Sarma camp claims the support of 45 MLAs but it is clear that the high command will not go by numbers alone or else it could face similar demands from other states. It has also made it clear that it was a mandate against the central government not the state government.

Yesterday, senior MLAs Sarat Borkataky and Abdul Muhib Majumder, belonging to the Sarma camp, had said after the meeting with the AICC team that they did not seek removal of Gogoi but only tried to impress upon the high command to take necessary steps to bolster the party before the Assembly polls.

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