Two-time former Assam chief minister Prafulla Mahanta, who is pitted against influential Congress minister Rockybul Hussain in Samarguri constituency in Nagaon district, is confident of emerging victorious.
Mr. Mahanta, who created political history in 1985 by becoming the country’s youngest Chief Minister, is also hopeful of the AGP emerging as the single largest party in the April 11 election and eventually forming a non-Congress government in the State.
AGP’s most prominent face, Mr. Mahanta, who spearheaded the anti-foreigners stir in Assam in the early 80s, is contesting from two seats - his native place Bahrampur and Samurguri. But it is the latter which has attracted most attention and for a good reason.
Mr. Mahanta’s opponent Mr. Hussian, whom he is fighting for the first time, is not only a Congress heavyweight, but is perceived very close to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi along with another senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Mr. Mahanta claims, “I stand a good chance of defeating Rockybul Hussain, the forest minister, who has unleashed a reign of terror in the constituency.”
His prognosis is seconded by many people in the constituency. Among them is Promod Bora, a college teacher, who said, “Mr. Mahanta’s courteous nature has brought him close to people which can very well be reflected in the poll outcome.”
The AGP has flooded the Election Commission with complaints of Mr. Hussain masterminding attacks on its supporters by Congress workers, alleging at least 10 partymen had been injured in the assaults.
In the other seat, where he is being challenged by Congress nominee Suraj Bora, a surrendered ULFA cadre, who allegedly has a criminal background, is expecting a cakewalk winning from there since 1991.
Mr. Hussain has won twice from the seat which has a predominant Muslim population constituting more than 50 per cent of the 1,28,642 voters. But this time he is facing an uncertain outcome up against a formidable candidate like Mr. Mahanta.
Mr. Hussain, who owns private T V ‘Nagaon Talks’, has been barred by the EC for airing programmes in the two constituencies after Mr. Mahanta filed a complaint that the channel was manifestly supporting the Congress nominee.
Mr. Hussain is banking on his performance, claiming, “I have worked tirelessly for the people of the constituency during the last 10 years of our regime.”
Denying any attempt on his part to harm AGP supporters, the minister called Mr. Mahanta an “outsider” and one “who is bound to be shown the door”.
The other constituency in the district Nagaon will witness a multi-cornered contest between the sitting AGP MLA Girin Baruah and his Congress nominee Durlav Chamua, All India United Democratic Front contestant Nurul Amin Choudhury and BJP’s Deva Kumar Saikia.
AGP nominee Mr. Baruah, a former minister in the Prafulla Mahanta cabinet, has won from Nagaon since 1996 which is traditionally regarded as an AGP bastion.
With more than 70 per cent of the electorate being Muslims, Mr. Baruah will face a stiff opposition from Mr. Choudhury, a Muslim, apart from Mr. Chamua and Mr. Saikia.
Mr. Chamua, a member of the Koch Rajbonshi community, who has been nominated by the Congress for the first time, feels that the developmental schemes launched by the government will help him win.
“There is a noticeable change in Nagaon with better roads and other facilities,” he claimed.
The Congress has received a shot in the arm when star campaigner and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addressed a huge election rally in the district where people participated in large numbers despite a bandh called by the ULFA.