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Assam: All Not Well in Grand Alliance; Congress Says Time for Party to Set Own Course

Gaurav Gogoi, Congress MP from Koliabor, was explicit in his views when asked if the party needed to be in the alliance or move ahead by itself. (Image: News18)

Gaurav Gogoi, Congress MP from Koliabor, was explicit in his views when asked if the party needed to be in the alliance or move ahead by itself. (Image: News18)

The state Congress core committee will meet on August 30 to decide future course of the party's place in the 'Mahajot'.

All is not well in the opposition grand alliance, ‘Mahajot’, of Assam after several senior Congress leaders said it was time for the party to distance itself from the alliance and set its own course.

The state Congress, meanwhile, will have its core committee meeting on August 30. Congress leader Jitendra Singh will be present in Assam on September 1, where several key decisions on the ensuing by-election and the fate of party with respect to the grand alliance are likely to be made.

Gaurav Gogoi, MP from Koliabor constituency of upper Assam, was explicit in his views when asked if the party needed to be in the alliance or move ahead by itself. He said people had “huge expectations” from the Congress, and if those were fulfilled then the party will form the next government in 2026.

Gogoi said, “I believe it is time for the Indian National Congress party in Assam to be independent of the Mahajot. The Congress is the only party that can take on the BJP. For that, we need to strengthen our organisation across Assam, including those constituencies that have Mahajot MLAs.”

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He added that the Mahajot was finalised a few months before the 2021 elections and, before that, the party had fulfilled its duty as an opposition party. “Going forward inside the Assam Assembly, the party may still consult with other opposition parties, if and when the BJP government brings anti-people policies. People have huge expectations from the Congress and if we fulfil them, we will form the next government in 2026. These sentiments are not only mine but that of thousands of party workers across the state.”

Ahead of the Assembly election, the Congress and Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had joined hands for an alternative to the ruling BJP in the state. Congress and the AIUDF, along with four other political parties, declared the formation of a ‘grand alliance’, an alliance “for the greater interest” of the people of the state and to “save Assam”.

Contrary to its objectives to “save Assam”, however, the grand alliance proved to be a major hitch in stitching together the Congress fabric of the state. Senior party leaders like Rupjyoti Kurmi, three-time MLA from Mariani; Sushanta Borgohain, MLA from Thowra; and Sushmita Dev have distanced themselves from the party. They have said the alliance was a major setback for the party in Upper Assam and South Assam, and the reason for an election debacle.

“The people of Assam voted the Mahajot to be in the opposition. The people have voted Mahajot to be with the people and voice their concerns and be watchful, to speak against the unpopulous decisions of the government or oppose such actions. In such a time, if anybody in the Mahajot is all praise for the government and claims that the chief minister is the best ever, the Assam Pradesh Congress will not be an ally to such a party,” said Zakir Hussain Sikdar, working president of Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC), in a veiled attack on the AIUDF.

“The BPF (Bodo People Front) is with the grand alliance, there isn’t anything official about the party distancing itself from the alliance. However, in the last few days, it’s obvious that our communication has snipped. They definitely have other plans that they need to make public. As they allied with the Mahajot in the public domain, if they want to part ways then that too should be public,” Sikdar said.

While most disgruntled Congress leaders hopped onto the BJP bandwagon and now wait for a second round of polling to decide their fate, Dev sprung a surprise by anchoring herself with ‘Team Didi’. The once firebrand Congress leader form Barak Valley, Dev will initiate her campaign from August 29, to bring more people on board with her, which may feature some prominent names from Assam politics.

For the party that claimed to be the “key” to the grand alliance success before the Assembly election, however, now awaits a major jolt in its own camp. If reports are to be believed, Phani Talukdar, the AIUDF’s lone Hindu MLA in the Assembly, is all set to leave and join the BJP.

Talukdar represents the Bhabanipur constituency in Lower Assam. If sources are to be believed, then the AIUDF leader shall announce his decision on September 1.

“He lost twice from the constituency, and this time it was because of the AIUDF platform that (Phani) Talukdar tasted success. He has to respect the people’s mandate and we have asked him to think with a good conscience. We hope he takes a responsible decision,” said a senior AIUDF leader.

Before the election, senior leader Ajanta Neog had also switched loyalty from the Congress to the BJP, and now holds a key portfolio of finance in the government.

“Leaders are like club football players. Clubs do approach them on their performance. I too was approached, but my decision is clear,” said Nagaon MP Pradyut Bordoloi.

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first published:August 28, 2021, 16:19 IST