The embers of dissidence in the ruling Congress in Assam may flare up now and then, but collectively the party seems to be staring down the barrel as 2016 looms ever nearer. Even APCC president Anjan Dutta does not seem too sanguine about his party’s electoral prospects, if his recent public pronouncements are anything to go by. At Jorhat last Thursday, Dutta did some plain speaking — that if polls are held now, ‘the Congress without campaigning will mage to bag 21 seats while 75 seats will present problems’. So as of today, if only 21 Congress MLAs can be confident of retaining their seats, the outlook does not seem at all bright that the party will come back to power for the fourth consecutive time on its own steam. To his credit, at least Dutta did not seek refuge in bombast and chest-thumping unlike some other senior Congressmen. With Assembly elections less than a year away, why did the APCC president make such an unflattering prediction of Congress fortunes in the hustings? Dutta may try to backtrack in the coming days with the party leadership frowning upon him, but he has been known in the past to talk bluntly on occasions. He may yet be sounding a timely warning to the Congress that it should get its act together fast if it does not want to go bust. It is a far cry from the Congress of 2001 that had emerged as a deliverer to the people from Prafulla Mahanta’s regime, or the resolute Congress of 2006 that stood up to Ajmal’s AIUDF, or even the Congress of 2011 that beat all odds to retain power with a much larger mandate.
If the Congress in Assam is on an irreversible downhill slide, it has much to do with how the ‘grand old party’ has been faring at the tiol level in the last 3-4 years, as well as the mess its government has made in its third term in the State. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi may indulge in bluster or false bravado, but it is clear to anyone who wishes to see — that there is a government in Dispur only in me. Development in Assam has ground to a halt, undoing almost everything the two earlier Congress governments had achieved. Roads are crumbling, recruitment has nearly stopped, government employees are once again gripped with that sick feeling of salaries drying up. The country as a whole has been going through ups and downs in the past few years, but the lack of vision and meaningful direction in Assam has cast a pall in every sphere. The drift and chaos in one State department after another is there for the people to see and judge. Indigenous communities are beginning to add up the deceptions suffered and hopes belied. The Tarun Gogoi government’s U-turn now in pushing for electoral rolls riddled with foreigners’ mes as the basis for updating the NRC, has triggered an outcry in the State. Staring at a resurgent BJP trying to strengthen its foothold in Assam and facing a near-certain anti-incumbency tsumi, it is hardly surprising that the APCC president is reading aloud the writing on the wall. If Anjan Dutta is at last calling a spade a spade, at least he is not calling it a bloody shovel! The Congress higher-ups should take this opportunity for some soul searching, instead of running him down for saying what the people at large are feeling.