PM, Kujur win RS polls - Cong sings unity song, heaves a sigh of relief

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By OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT
  • Published 31.05.13
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Nilamani Sen Deka (right), minister of parliamentary affairs, receives the winning certificate on behalf of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from returning officer Gauranga Prasad Das and (below) Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi casts his vote in Guwahati on Thursday. (PTI pictures)

Guwahati, May 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today won his fifth straight term to the Rajya Sabha from Assam and Santiuse Kujur his first with 49 and 45 votes respectively despite the intense infighting within the Congress Legislature Party.

Altogether 112 votes were polled, of which the Congress nominees together polled 94 votes — 79 party legislators, 12 of ally BPF, two Independents and the lone Trinamul MLA — as planned during the CLP meeting held last evening in the presence of chief minister Tarun Gogoi, PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita and AICC secretary in charge of Assam Parvez Hashmi.

Like the ruling Congress, Opposition AIUDF also made a statement, albeit in a losing cause. All its 18 MLAs not only voted for party candidate Aminul Islam but also for Singh as their second preference to show that it would continue to oppose the Congress in the state as a “matter of principle” but was not averse to doing business with the ruling party at the Centre.

The AIUDF votes were, however, not required as the Congress’s own votes (79) were enough to see its two nominees through. Singh and Kujur required only 38 votes each, down from 43 each in the 126-member House after the AGP (9) and BJP (5) decided to abstain. AIUDF legislator Abdur Rahim Khan said they voted for the Prime Minister to show their respect for him.

Kujur, whose nomination had created a flutter after senior legislator Anjan Dutta objected to it saying it would demoralise dedicated and senior party leaders, thanked AICC president Sonia Gandhi, Gogoi and Kalita for his victory.

He promised to raise the pressing problems of the state such as flood and erosion and the demand for ST status by some indigenous communities in the Upper House.

“Though there was some controversy over my nomination, the Congress as a party is always united. Today’s outcome proves it. All is well that ends well,” he said.

Dutta, after casting his vote, said he had voted according to the direction of the high command. Gogoi and cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is leading the anti-Gogoi group in the CLP, also hummed the unity tune.

Most Congress leaders heaved a sigh of relief given the build-up to the polling day with both the Gogoi and the anti-Gogoi camps continuing their one-upmanship till yesterday.

“I feel much relaxed now that it is over. We were not concerned over the outcome but the politicking that took place in the run-up to the polls. It was really energy-sapping,” a minister said, summing up the mood within the party.

Hashmi told The Telegraph from Delhi that Kalita, who is also in Delhi, called up the Prime Minister, who is in Thailand, around 6.10pm to congratulate him, though the results were officially declared by returning officer G.P. Das at 6.50pm after receiving clearance from the Election Commission. Hashmi and Kalita together left for Delhi in the afternoon.

“Everything went off smoothly. Everybody voted as assigned,” said Hashmi, who had been camping here since Thursday on the direction of the AICC president to ensure smooth election of both the party nominees.

Das formally informed an official of the Indian embassy in Thailand, who had called him twice in the evening to know about the result, at 7pm.

Das handed over the certificate of election to Kujur after the announcement while Singh’s certificate was handed over to parliamentary affairs minister Nilamani Sen Deka soon after.

Earlier in the day, the chief minister took a dig at the AGP and the BJP for refraining from the Rajya Sabha election.

“They did not even dare to field candidates in the election. What does it mean? It means that they don’t have an existence in the state. What message did they send to the people by refraining from the election? They only exist on television channels. But we exist because of the work we do for the people,” Gogoi said.

Former chief minister and AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta attributed their non-participation in the election to the Congress’s “anti-national” activities.

“What has Manmohan Singh done for the state by being a Rajya Sabha member for so long? Nothing. Instead of doing any good for the people, their government is ceding Assam’s land to Bangladesh. And, Tarun Gogoi has given his consent to it. It is an anti-national activity. As a protest against it, we refrained from the election,” Mahanta said.