Setback to Congress, AGP; gains for BJP in Assam

Sushanta Talukdar

Guwahati: The ruling Congress and the major Opposition party, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), suffered setbacks in Assam while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the debutant Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) emerged stronger in the State in which the poll outcome dashed the Congress hope to repeat or improve its performance from that of 2004. However, overall in the Northeast, the Congress made gains by winning 13 out of 24, an increase of two seats from the 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

Of the 14 seats in Assam, the Congress won in seven, its coalition partner Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) won one, the BJP four while the AGP and AUDF won one seat each. In 2004, the Congress won nine seats, the AGP and the BJP two each.

The BJP doubled its strength in Assam from two seats to four seats, gaining from its alliance with the AGP. However, despite the alliance with the BJP, the AGP failed to retain the two seats of Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur which it had won in 2004. This time, the regional party won only one seat — that of Tezpur. AGP candidate Joseph Toppo defeated Congress heavyweight Mani Kumar Subba in the constituency.

“It has been the toughest election in Assam. Getting seven seats in spite of all the forces combining together against the Congress was a tough job. We expected eight seats and we got one less,” said Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi in his immediate reaction to the poll outcome.

Prominent winners from Assam included AUDF president and perfume mogul Badruddin Ajmal, Union Minister Bijoy Krishna Handique, who retained the Jorhat seat for the sixth consecutive term by defeating his nearest BJP rival Kamakhya Prasad Tasa. BJP vice-president and former Union Minister Bijoya Chakravarty wrested the Guwahati seat from the Congress by defeating sitting Congress MLA Robin Bordoloi. In Autonomous District constituency, the Congress MP and former Union Minister, Biren Singh Engti, won for the fourth term. In Kaliabor constituency, Congress MP and Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s brother Dip Gogoi won for the third consecutive term by defeating his nearest AGP rival Gunin Hazarika.

Mr. Ajmal won the Dhubri seat by a huge margin but came second in Silchar constituency that was won by the BJP candidate and former Union Minister, Kabindra Purakaystha.

Prominent losers in the State included Union Minister for Heavy Industries and Congress heavyweight Santosh Mohan Dev in Silchar, Congress MP Moni Kumar Subba in Tezpur, AGP heavyweights Sarbananda Sonowal in Dibrugarh and Arun Sharma in Lakhimpur.

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