Guwahati: In what comes as a major embarrassment to opposition Congress in Assam, their party candidate Dilwar Hussain, who was twice arrested for his alleged involvement in rhino poaching, has won the gram panchayat president seat from Suwaguri in Assam’s Biswanath district.
Hussain’s victory has raised questions – will he now be immune from indictment while in office? Will he escape prosecution for his alleged involvement in rhino killing?
The Congress is tight-lipped on the matter, while Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia has termed it ‘unfortunate’.
“I don’t know how this happened. We had cancelled his candidature. Probably, the withdrawal time was over, or there might have been a technical glitch for which he could still contest and win. It is unfortunate. Any decision on him will be taken by the party president,” said Saikia.
Before elections, APCC president Ripun Bora had announced that Hussain’s candidature has been rejected by the party. According to reports, Hussain was allegedly involved in rhino killing at Kaziranga National Park in 2011, and a case had been registered against him at Biswanath Chariali police station.
On the other hand, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) candidate and rhino poacher Ganesh Doley who had served jail term for his alleged involvement in rhino poaching and illegal wildlife trade lost to a BJP candidate from the Moridhansiri Gaon Panchayat seat in Golaghat district.
Meanwhile, such candidates with wildlife criminal history have raised concern among environmentalists who have lashed out at the two political parties. Wildlife conservationist Kaushik Baruah asked if elections and political parties are being funded by poaching money.
“Are parties being funded by individuals who are linked with poaching and wildlife crime? One of the criminals lost, but another won from Biswanath – the sixth addition of Kaziranga National Park, and an area from where maximum poaching cases have been reported. What does it prove?”
Counting is underway for the two-phased Assam Panchayat elections 2018, with BJP taking a lead followed by opposition Congress. AGP, an ally of the BJP government that decided to go solo in the rural polls is likely to finish third.