Cong continues with counter-offensives against Opp

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Guwahati, Jun 6 (UNI) The Congress in Assam today brought out from the closet the criminal records of the Opposition leaders to undo the damage to its image following the arrest of Ripun Bora.

Bora was arrested in New Delhi on June 3 while offering a bribe of Rs 10 lakh to a CBI official investigating the murder of a student leader Daniel Topno in 2000, in which the former is implicated.

Three cabinet ministers Rockybul Hussain, Bharat Narah and Gautom Bora led the tirade today and presented details of crimes and forgeries committed by Opposition leaders of the AGP, AGP (Progressive) and BJP at a joint press conference at the APCC headquarters here.

Reacting to AGP(P)'s counter-statement that its chief and two time chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta was never chargesheeted by the CBI, they said the CBI had sought the Governor's permission to chargesheet the then-chief minister Mr Mahanta. '' If the CBI didn't have a case against him, they would have never gone to the Governor. But that CBI was never granted permission is a different story,'' they said.

On Congress MP Kirip Chaliha's allegations against Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi for protecting the tainted minister, the ministers said, '' The allegations are totally baseless and motivated. We will approach the party disciplinary committee over the issue.

Mr Gogoi and APCC chief Bhubaneswar Kalita had launched the damage-control brigade yesterday with both pointing accusing fingers at Opposition leaders who have been chargesheeted or are facing serious charges.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi will also join the face-saving band when she arrives in the city on June 13, officially, to address a farmers' rally. Actually, her real mission would be to hammer out a solution to restore the party's image after Bora's debacle.

Mr Gogoi had assured of all assistance to the CBI in pursuing the case against Mr Bora, but the party's refusal to expel the tainted leader sent signals of the domineering position the accused enjoys in the party.

''We will neither suspend Mr Bora nor expel him from the party for the time-being,'' Mr Kalita said yesterday.

Mr Bora enjoys grassroots popularity in northern Assam and the party is trying hard not to antagonize him further in this hour of embarrassment.

Instead, the Congress is raking up old criminal charges against Opposition leaders as a united Opposition demanded the Chief Minister's resignation and the government's dismissal after the episode.

UNI SG KK/src1831

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