Since the days when Manmohan Singh was nominated as a Rajya Sabha member from Assam, the charge that the state has become a dumping ground for outside politicians has gained currency. Add another name to that hoary list: Amethi princeling Sanjay Singh from Uttar Pradesh, who has never had much to do with North East India.
The nomination of Sanjay Singh as Rajya Sabha member from Assam is clearly seen as a sop to keep the Amethi strongman out of the way when Rahul contests from there. Sanjay, who was threatening to switch over to the BJP camp, may have been suitably mollified but not the people of Assam.
More than the declaration of a rank outsider from the state, it is the numbers game that is bothering parties; the cat is now out of the bag: the Congress which has 79 assembly seats and runs the government in alliance with the Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) in the 126-strong state assembly, had places for just two Rajya Sabha nominations. Inexplicably, it now has three. The sop to Sanjay Singh has come after he was reportedly miffed with the Gandhi family for giving him a raw deal and threatening to make Rahul’s ride from Amethi a rough one. The other two who go through the Rajya Sabha are Assam Congress president Bhubaneswar Kalita and Biswajeet Daimary, BPF candidate.
The candidature of Sanjay Singh has puzzled many in Guwahati. According to informed sources, the Congress high command told the party president and the chief minister that they wanted Sanjay Singh to win a Rajya Sabha nomination from the state.
Whatever the reason, Sanjay Singh’s nomination has led to a public outcry and kindled rare opposition unity with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), BJP and even the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) led by Badaruddin Ajmal coming together in a show of strength.
Suddenly, protest is in the air. The Krishak Mukti Sangaram Samiti (KMSS) has declared its intention of launching an all state agitation against what it called Congress’s horse trading which led to the defeat of the joint opposition candidate, Haidar Hussain, veteran journalist and intellectual who has a clean image.
According to the KMSS president Akhil Gogoi, “Chief minister Tarun Gogoi and his party high command have used the state like a dustbin and that is why they do not bother before importing a murderer like Sanjay Singh to represent the people of Assam.’’
Says All Assam Students Union (AASU) leader Samujjal Bhattacharya ,“The Congress is using Assam as a dumping ground. They have no responsibility towards the people of the state. Sonia Gandhi and her party know that if Sanjay Singh fights the forthcoming Lok Sabha election from Amethi, it will hamper Rahul Gandhi’s chances. So they want to protect their base by pushing a killer like Sanjay Singh to Assam. Tarun Gogoi is a blind follower has no other option except to follow the party high command.’’
Interestingly, despite the win, chief minister Gogoi and party president Bhubanewsar Kalita had earlier publicly declared that they were not aware about Sanjay Singh’s candidature but as the party high command wanted a seat in the prestigious Rajya Sabha, they had no choice but to follow.
Sanjay Singh’s surprise entry suddenly elevated him as the party’s second candidate in addition to Kalita but with the Congress running a coalition government, the claims of Biswajeet Daimary could not be ignored. Daimary, who offered to quit, was persuaded by the chief minister of support in the Rajya Sabha. And that is what has happened.
On the other hand Kalita, himself a candidate and now Rajya Sabha member, had said before the elections, “The party has two candidates as the number of MLAs backing us is sufficient for only two candidates.’’ This statement has led to charges that the Congress indulged in horse trading, a charge that is now only going to resound, with three candidates winning with Congress help.
Says BJP MLA from the Dibrugarh constituency, Prashanta Phukan, “Like the last Rajya Sabha elections, the Congress is trying to indulge in horse trading. The party had offered crores to independent as well as opposition MLAs. It is an open secret in Guwahati that money was changing hands.”
Emotions are running high. According to AIUDF MLA Sherman Ali, “Now that Haidar Hussain has lost the Rajya Sabha seat because of a Congress conspiracy and horse trading, we will project Haidar Hussain as their candidate against Gaurav Gogoi. That is the way to expose the Congress conspiracy. Congress has, however, denied charges of wrong doing. Asserts health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma: “We have the three seats. We did not indulge in horse trading. We had a strategy which we have implemented to perfection.” He, however, refused to disclose what that special strategy was going to be. A number of other Congress leaders declined to comment.
It is important to mention here that 20 leading intellectuals and scholars of Assam had earlier sent a letter to Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and to the Chief Election Commissioner in New Delhi asking them to observe proper electoral procedure so that anomalies are avoided. For the upheaval a single Rajya Sabha nomination has caused in India’s most important state in the north east, that is a mild understatement.