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Congress likely to face tough fight in Lower Asom

Written by: Staff
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Barpeta, Apr 8 (UNI) As the campaign for the second phase of polls in Asom comes to an end, the new equation in Muslim politics has turned the politics of the Congress on its head and brought both the regional Opposition parties back into the reckoning.

The advent of Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), the anti-incumbency factor and reemergence of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) have made things tough for the Congress, which romped home easily last time, bagging 24 of the total 31 seats in the region, just leaving five for the AGP and one to the BJP.

However, this time, the Opposition parties claim it will not be smooth sailing for the ruling party.

'' Except Dharmapur, the Congress is not winning in any seats of lower Asom, '' said rebel party MP Golam Osmani, who has not only been campaigning against the Congress but has put up a bloc of 21 independent candidates against the official party nominees.

His claims may be somewhat exaggerated, but the fact is that there is a wave of change in Muslim politics with almost all the constituencies having a sizeable number of Bangladeshi settlers, who have over the years, have become Indian citizens. More than half of the 35 constituencies that will go to poll in the final phase of poll are controlled by these settlers, with Muslims a clear majority in 14 out of these.

However, the Congress is optimistic about its chances.

''It is a misconception that Muslims are deserting us. Wait for the result. The Muslims will vote for those who can give them stability, '' Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who has been cris-crossing the Muslim-dominated constituencies in the past three days, asserted.

The Congress has always been accused of using the minorities as its vote bank and not doing enough for them.

''For close to six decades they have been used. On the one hand they are under constant fear that they would be harassed on the pretext of being Bangladeshis. The Congress has just used them as vote bank, '' AUDF chairman Badaruddin Ajmal said.

''The Muslims have never had a leader who is acceptable across the constituencies. All the other Muslims leader of the state are constituency-centric. Mr Ajmal has come with glamour. He is a millionaire and has an empire of perfume business in West Asia. This glamour has propped him up and given some credibility also amongst the minorities, '' said Asomiya Pratidin Editor Haidar Hussain.

The AGP is also upbeat about its chances. ''Things are improving for us rapidly and by the polling day they will improve further, '' party General Secretary Sarbananda Sonowal claimed. However, it is also beleaguered by the presence of rebel candidates, a problem Congress is also facing in more than a dozen constituencies.

Political observers feel that no party is going to sweep the lower Asom as Congress, AGP and AUDF along with the Bodos, will split the honours with the BJP springing a surprise in isolated places.

'' Unlike upper Asom, the issues are diverse and society is not homogenous, '' AGP president Brindabon Goswami admitted . But on the other hand the Mr Gogoi, maintaining his usual gusto, said, '' Wait for the result. You all are wrong. You all are predicting wrong things. The Muslims will vote only us and not anywhere. '' '' I am not bothered about the Chief Ministership. I was not interested in the past also. Our party will decide but the fact remains that we will win, '' he said.

UNI MT SJC VD HT1312

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