Congress likely to face tough challenge in Barak valley


 SILCHAR, Feb 13: Congress has been maintaining a low profile in Barak Valley ever since its candidate for Silchar MLA seat, Arun Dutta Mazumder, also the then president of district Congress committee, got the worst drubbing in the hands of BJP nominee Dilip Kumar Paul in the last assembly by-election of 2014. It was a record win for Paul that left Congress leadership in retrospection as well as introspection on the causes for the debacle. In fact, with no possibility of any alliance with AIUDF as of now, Congress has been the target of attack of the opposition parties on many counts, for most among them being stalled development.

 Moreover, the commitment of Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi during his poll campaign for assembly elections of 2011 for the Rs.1000 crore package for development of Barak Valley after being in limbo since then is now being released in patches that too after BJP’s continuous lambasting. Most of the roads and highways continue to be in bad conditions. Rural people in remote areas of the valley have yet to cry for safe drinking water, electricity, health services and communication.

 Though the Chief Minister sounded the poll bugle during his daylong packed programme here on the opening of the 3rd state games in the last part of December 2015 by harping on his government’s plan of development for tea tribes and people in general, the party has been struggling hard to find firmer grounds. Ministers and MLAs seem to have lost their closer rapport with people who have become sceptical about foundation stones, packages and promises. Besides, the party has been plagued by inner conflict and dissidence.

 Sushmita Dev, MP Silchar, daughter of Sontosh Mohan Dev, former union minister, is yet to attain his status and influence to carry conviction with all levels of leaders and workers in the party. With frontline BJP leaders being billed for campaign in the valley and the packed workers meets addressed by Sushma Swaraj, Union Minister of Exterl Affairs, and Rajth Singh, Union Home Minister, to begin with, Congress too needed leaders to add grist to the poll campaign and whip up support for the party.

 The party leadership here of Congress thought it wise to bring in Ghulam bi Azad, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha and former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, to address the workers’ meet here which however turned out to be a lack lustre affair. The thin attendance notwithstanding, Azad knew the biggest challenge for them was BJP in this region. He adopted the well-designed strategy to hit out at mo Government, calling it ‘directionless and purposeless’. But, his main target was rendra Modi, quite obviously, for blaming Congress on Rajya Sabha stalemate.

 Taking the cue, Azad described the performance of BJP in Lok Sabha equally disappointing. This has virtually, as he said, deflected as people want an end of this government at the centre. As if to boost up the workers, he said if poll is held now, BJP will face debacle. But, the edge and punch in his diatribe against BJP was missing and for the most part it was ‘stereotyped’. He did not make even passing reference to the problems of this valley, fodder to the opposition, perhaps quite deliberately from being caught on the wrong foot.  With galaxy of party ministers and leaders around, Ghulam bi Azad was all hammer and tongue against BJP. Strangely, he spared AIUDF, another adversary, perhaps indicating if short of majority, his party could opt for post poll arrangement with Badruddin Ajmal. He at the same time spoke of fighting the poll battle alone. His lack of knowledge about the linguistic, ethnic and demographic composition of the region was well reflected in his all-out attack on the saffron party.  How for the leaders and workers have been rejuveted, coming days alone will tell. The next visit might be by some other heavyweights from New Delhi. But, the most honest confession was made by Siddique Ahmed, minister, who in a statement said Congress is on back foot though he did not elaborate. It is true Congress has the advantage in this valley with 13 MLA seats of the total 15 in its favour. But, looking at the trends and moods, the battle ahead is going to be rather tough as the challenge is both from BJP and AIUDF.

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Sentinel Assam