DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
One will have to wait until the State Assembly polls in 2016 to see if the Assam Congress would crumble like a pack of cards or whether the party would be able to withstand the interl dissension eating into its vitals since the past three years. What is puzzling though is the manner in which the All India Congress Committee (AICC), manned by netas, fearfully or disgustingly described by many party men (and women) as the ‘high command’, is letting the Assam Congress disintegrate or tread on the path of disintegration.
Earlier this week, veteran Congressman Hiranya Bora resigned from the party and declared his intent in forming a new political party. His resigtion was viewed with dismay by many State Congress legislators and leaders who said on television it should not have happened. Bora’s resigtion followed days of muscle-flexing by senior Congressmen, including former MP Bolin Kuli, who openly expressed their lack of faith in the leadership of Pradesh Congress president Anjan Dutta. While remaining ambiguous on whether they were loyal to Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, leaders like Bora, Kuli and some others have been openly seeking the ouster of Anjan Dutta from his position as PCC chief. Dutta is one of the politicians being questioned by the CBI on the Sharada chit fund scam.
That a new dissident lobby, bent on action rather than weighing their options or judging their strength, has emerged in the Assam Congress is clear. Those close to Anjan Dutta or Chief Minister Gogoi would like to dismiss threats from Bora or Kuli on the premise that they are ‘fringe elements’ and, therefore, pose no threat to the ruling Congress in the State. Loyalists of Gogoi or Anjan Dutta would also like to draw solace from the fact that dissidents during the past three years could not do anything to dislodge Tarun Gogoi, despite claiming the support, at one stage, of more than 40 of the 78 Congress MLAs in the 126-member Assam Assembly.
The big question now is this: can the AICC let things drift in Assam and not do anything to strengthen the party? The answer should obviously be in the negative, but going by the total iction of the Congress ‘high command’ to unite the party during the past three years, one cannot expect action now. That there is open defiance by the newer dissidents is indicated by the fact that three leaders—Bolin Kuli, Adil Shah and Ra Khan—who were issued show cause notices by PCC chief Anjan Dutta preferred to send in their replies directly to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. They said they don’t trust Dutta anymore.
Why is the AICC ignoring party affairs in Assam? The question arises because the Congress has shown a miserable performance during the last Lok Sabha polls, bringing their tally down to a mere 44 in the 543-member Lok Sabha. How, then, can the Congress ignore party affairs a state like Assam where, too, its performance at the 2014 Lok Sabha polls took a beating, coming down to just three seats? Besides, the BJP in the State, enthused by winning seven of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in 2014, is hoping to unseat the Congress this time and end their victory run. Nothing seems to bother Tarun Gogoi or Rahul Gandhi and the lesser Congress leaders in Delhi and Dispur.
The circus within the Assam Congress is getting interesting by the day. Here is a PCC chief Dutta who tells publicly on two occasions that if the party were to face the polls now, they were sure to win 21 seats! That is a clear admission of accepting defeat before the polls. On the third day or so, the same man says the party would win 71 seats if they go to the polls now! A big leap really within a span of 72 hours! Dutta is touted to be a Tarun Gogoi loyalist and, therefore, when he said the Congress in Assam was going to win 21 seats if it faced the polls now, it meant he was putting out a figure reflective of the Tarun Gogoi Government’s not-so-rich report card during the three years of his latest tenure as Chief Minister.
It is time the AICC takes time out of its not-so-busy schedule now (because it doesn’t have much to do at the Centre) and look at affairs of the party in Assam. After all, Assam is among the few states ruled by the party, something that the AICC is expected to be possessive about unless it has decided to let things pass.