Congress sweeps Assam Panchayat poll

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Guwahati, Jan 28 (UNI) The ruling Congress was all set to sweep the Panchayat poll in the state, winning majority of the seats announced so far, leaving only a handful of pockets to Opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF).

Counting began this morning despite rain and cold wave sweeping the entire state in all the 19 districts, where election took place.

There was no counting in Hailakandi and Goalpara districts, where polling had been suspended because of local violence.

As the results were trickling in, it was apparent that the Congress was all set to control upper Assam and north bank of the river Brahmaputra. They were locked in a tough fight with the AGP in some lower Assam districts like Barpeta, Kamrup as well as Nagaon.

The AGP did exceedingly well in Bongaigaon and Dibrugarh districts but could not keep the Sonitpur district, home of the party president Brindabon Goswami.

Counting started this morning at 0800 hrs but in most of the districts there was delayed start amid chaos and great enthusiasm of candidates and supporters.

About 76,000 candidates are in fray for various posts in the panchayat.

The Congress and AUDF had turned the poll into a prestige battle as each of them made it look a like a general election with money, muscle and even helicopters for the two month long campaign period.

On the other hand, the AGP played a subdued marginal role in the electioneering, unable to match the money and muscle power of the Congress and AUDF.

But the AGP surprised everyone by putting up a better fight than it was expected, wresting Bongaigaon, Kamrup (Metro) and Dibrugarh and giving the Congress run for their money in Dhemaji, Barpeta and Lakhimpur districts.

The rebel AGP(P) has some semblance of respectability in Nagaon district, home of former Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. But surprisingly the AIDF had not done very well so far in the minority- dominated areas. But initial figures showed that they will eventually do well in Morigaon, Nagaon and Dhubri districts.

The BJP's presence had been isolated and they had somewhat made their presence felt in Cachar and Karimganj districts, their traditional strongholds.

The party had also picked up some seats in the Brahmaputra valley, but nothing to take serious note of.

Reacting to the trend, AGP spokesman Apurba Kr Bhattacharya said the AGP had not done too badly despite ''alleged rigging both at the polling level as well during the counting''.

This was, however, denied by the Congress. Its spokesman Haren Das said the results once again demonstrated the Congress' ''popularity'' in the state.

He brushed aside the rigging allegation as those of ''frustrated losing parties.'' UNI MT SJC SB HT1830

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