Assam opposition in tatters after shock defeat in Rajya Sabha polls

By Syed Zarir Hussain, IANS,

Guwahati : The shock defeat of the combined opposition candidate in the just concluded Rajya Sabha polls in Assam has once again exposed chinks in the opposition camp, besides putting a big question mark on the leadership issue in the state’s main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).

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Media baron Jayanta Baruah, the common second choice candidate of the combined opposition – the AGP, the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) – lost the polls after 11 legislators, who were earlier in the opposition camp, voted for the Congress candidate Silvious Condpan.

The 11 MLAs from the opposition camp who voted against the common opposition candidate Friday were two from the AUDF, four BJP MLAs, three independents and one each from the Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) and the AGP.

“We need to introspect on why the MLAs who were with us decided to vote against our party-backed candidate. There must be some reasons which we need to address instead of blaming it on horse trading and the Congress party,” senior AGP leader and former party president Brindaban Goswami said.

That all is not well within the main opposition AGP is evident the way some of the rebel party legislators pointed accusing fingers at the leadership.

“It appears the AGP is being led by just a few people and those few are acting like dictators. That is why the party is facing electoral reverses since 2001,” said Abdul Aziz, an AGP legislator who was suspended from the party on Thursday, a day before the Rajya Sabha polls when he vowed to vote for the Congress candidate.

The general complaint among the rebel 11 legislators was that the AGP leadership imposed Jayanta Baruah’s name without consulting anybody and hence the revolt.

The AGP faced electoral debacles in the 2001 and 2006 assembly elections, then again during the 2009 Lok Sabha polls when the party managed to get just one MP elected, besides being humiliated in panchayat and municipal elections and also during the last Rajya Sabha polls.

“Unless there is a radical change in the AGP’s overall leadership structure and policies, the party would find it very tough to bounce back in the 2011 assembly elections,” said Atanu Bhuyan, editor-in-chief of News Live, a satellite TV channel.

But despite the successive electoral reverses, the AGP leadership is not ready to accept defeat.

“The Congress indulged in horse trading during the Rajya Sabha polls and people would judge the ruling party. We are sure to win the 2011 elections as people want a change,” AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary said.

But questions are asked if the change would come automatically or the main opposition AGP would have to do something drastic to win back the confidence of the voters.

“Change would never come automatically. The AGP should first try to set their own house in order or else there would be more open rebellion against the party leadership in the days ahead,” said Bhuyan.