Vote division threat prompts BJP to urge Hojai MLA to remain in party

GUWAHATI, March 12: Amid threats of a possible vote division, the incumbent BJP is making desperate attempts to persuade “snubbed” Hojai MLA, Shiladitya Dev to remain as an active karyakarta (worker/member) and support the saffron party in the ensuing Assembly elections, particularly in Hojai and Lumding seats, which has a sizeable population of linguistic minorities.

Dev had on Wednesday evening tendered his resignation after the party denied him the ticket to contest the election from Hojai constituency and, in his place, nominated Ramakrishna Ghosh, a senior BJP member, as the candidate for the seat.

Supporters of Dev reacted angrily to the “snub”, shouting slogans against the party leadership and damaging poll campaign posters.

Reports of Dev “contesting as an Independent” did the rounds till yesterday evening but the visits by the senior BJP leaders to Dev’s home and convince him, apparently has turned the tide again in favour of the saffron party.

On Friday, Assam minister and master BJP strategist, Himanta Biswa Sarma and national general secretary Dilip Saikia visited Dev’s residence in Hojai, in an apparent bid to persuade the sitting legislator, not to take any decision that might harm the interest of the party.

Dev, who has been with the party for 30 years, has often remained in the public glare for his, at times, blunt remarks on sensitive issues.

Speaking to reporters, Sarma said that Dev “was, is and will always remain a BJP karyakarta …he will be responsible for the party campaign and visit places in Hojai and Lumding (where Sibu Misra has been re-nominated), along with other places, to garner support for the party candidates in the two seats.”

Addressing the people and media that gathered at Dev’s residence, Saikia, the national general secretary of BJP, assured that (once the BJP-led alliance comes to power again, Dev would be “given an important responsibility in the party or even ministry to serve the people.”

On Thursday, state minister Pijush Hazarika was asked by Sarma to make a quick visit to Dev’s residence to request him to stay in the party, keeping in mind the election prospects in the ensuing elections.

Hazarika’s meeting with Dev and his supporters continued till late on Thursday evening.

Sources predicted that Dev’s candidature as an Independent would lead to vote sharing between him and the BJP, which would eventually benefit the Congress, which has fielded Debabrata Saha as its candidate for Hojai.

Linguistic minority (Bengali) vote has played an important role in seats such as Hojai and Lumding, prompting the ruling coalition to garner support from popular leaders there amidst an aggressive state-wide campaign so far.

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