GUWAHATI/TEZPUR, Nov 10: The ruling Congress today wrested both the Assembly seats, for which by-elections were held three days ago, from the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
This victory, at a time when the next Assembly polls in the State are barely one-and-a-half years away, will be a morale booster for the Congress that has been maintaining its winning streak since 2001. For the AGP that has been facing defeats since the 1998 Lok Sabha polls, the Dhekiajuli LAC casualty will be dampener for the morale of party workers and support base. The seat was with the AGP for the last 13 years. The AIUDF, which has emerged in politics with a bang with its support base among immigrant Muslims and maintained its winning streak since 2006, also suffered a major setback by losing the South Salmara seat to the Congress.
While Congress candidate and former minister Wajed Ali Choudhury won the South Salmara seat by defeating his nearest AIUDF rival Abdur Rahman Ajmal by a margin of 6,553 votes, another Congress candidate, Bhimananda Tanti, trounced AGP candidate Shiv Charan Sahu by a margin of 21,574 votes in Dhekiajuli constituency in Sonitpur district. Abdur Rahman Ajmal is the son of AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal. In South Salmara, Wazed Ali Choudhury got 53,469 votes against 46,916 got by Ajmal. In Dhekiajuli, Bhimananda Tanti polled 54,484 votes against Shivan Charan Sahu’s 32,939 votes. AIUDF candidate Lenin Basumatary got 14,534 votes in Dhekiajuli.
The by-elections were necessitated after sitting legislators Joseph Toppo of the AGP and Badruddin Ajmal of the then AUDF were elected as Lok Sabha MPs in the last general elections from Tezpur and Dhubri Lok Sabha constituencies respectively.
The AGP and the BJP had formed a pre-poll alliance for the by-elections — the AGP put up its candidate in the Dhekiajuli seat and the BJP fielded its candidate in the South Salmara seat as part of the seat-sharing arrangement. “We are happy at the results and believe that the people of Dhekiajuli and South Salmara voted for the Congress party for the good governance we are providing to the people of Assam for the past eight years,” Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told journalists on the sidelines of the Vijay Utsav of the party at Rajiv Bhavan in Guwahati today. “Those who voted against us in the last Lok Sabha polls have reposed their faith on us in the by-polls, and this has proved beyond doubt that the people are happy with the developmental activities of the State Government,” Gogoi said, and added: “South Salmara LAC is dominated by people belonging to a religious minority, while Dhekiajuli has a cosmopolitan population. Our victory in both the seats is proof enough that we have the support of all sections of the society.”
Meanwhile, the headquarters of the AGP in Ambari wore a deserted look today. When this reporter came across party general secretary Kamala Kalita, he had only this to say: “We have failed to woo the voters.”
The regional party has been changing its leadership far too often. It first replaced former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta with Brindabon Goswami, who failed to take the party to the desired level. Goswami was again replaced by Chandra Mohan Patowary, under whose leadership too the party failed to win a number of elections — panchayat, Lok Sabha and civic polls, and now the by-polls. There is every likelihood of Patowary and working president Phani Bhushan Choudhury facing an ouster threat before the 2011 Assembly elections in the State. THE SENTINEL