Time for introspection in ‘beleaguered Assam Cong’ camp 

More may go the Kurmi way and join BJP, predicts analyst

GUWAHATI, June 23: The “beleaguered” Congress in Assam could be in for more “damage and jolts” across the state after four-time party MLA from Mariani, Rupjyoti Kurmi, quit the party last week and joined ruling BJP.

Before last Friday, the grand old party had 29 MLAs in Assam. With Kurmi’s resignation, it now has one less. Going by the predictions of experts, there could be a few more “disgruntled” Congressmen going the Kurmi way in the coming days.

Speaking to The Shillong Times on Wednesday, Suresh Varma, a veteran political analyst from Dibrugarh, said the signs are ominous for the Congress in Assam, with dissidence earlier, internal strife, and discontentment, particularly among young and popular leaders like Kurmi, surfacing.

“The resignation of the lone Congress MLA from the tea community, which is dominant in as many as 40 to 42 constituencies in Assam, could be a telling factor. Slowly but surely, the confidantes of former Congressman and now chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma are returning to his camp, even if it is the BJP,” Verma said.

The erosion and cracks were evident about eight years back. And after strongman Sarma left the party to join BJP, he took many of his key aides along with him to the saffron party.

Months before the recently-concluded Assembly elections, Congress had suffered a similar jolt with veteran party MLA from Golaghat and former minister Ajanta Neog quitting the party in December last year.

BJP had won 60 seats in the March-April Assembly elections in the state.

“Now, we have information that more, including incumbent MLAs, from both Upper and lower Assam, might be joining BJP. It could well be a situation where the ruling party has the majority seats in the 126-member House,” the analyst said.

Varma recalled that the diminishing Congress base in tea garden territory was evident back in the 2016 Assembly polls, 2019 parliamentary polls and now in the 2021 Assembly elections.

“There are reasons because the BJP heard their voices and gave them some of what they wanted. Be it schemes across sectors and basic needs including wage increments, even if they were not in accordance with what was demanded, the saffron party did leave a mark enough to win an election. The infighting in the Congress camp, evident over the years, too did not help,” he said.

A displeased Kurmi had alleged that young leaders allegedly had no place in the party.

“The Congress has been adversely affected due to its wrong policies and decisions ahead of the polls. Despite my eligibility, the party leadership did not accord due recognition or consider me eligible for important posts, as apparently they were reserved for seniors only,” the 45-year-old alleged after quitting from the party.

By their own admission, senior Congress leaders such as state party president Ripun Bora and Leader of the Opposition in Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia have confessed to the loss and, more importantly, the damage it might cause to the party.

Saikia even admitted before the media that “all might not be well in the camp” and that there was need for introspection and review.

Not surprisingly though, immediately after the 45-year-old ‘vocal’ leader submitted his resignation, a three-member committee led by veteran Congressman from Jorhat, Rana Goswami, was dispatched by the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee to Mariani, the constituency represented by Kurmi, apparently for a “damage control” exercise, with meetings and interactions lined up with the grassroots level party workers.

“As a young leader, Kurmi enjoys popularity among the younger generation in the Upper Assam region. So his exit will certainly affect the party. But Congress has seen big leaders quit the party. Despite setbacks, the party found ways to come back and make its presence felt,” Rajkumar Nilanetra Neog, who contested from Dibrugarh on a Congress ticket in the recent Assembly polls, told this correspondent on Wednesday.

“But, like what our leaders have said, there is a need for introspection in the party as to why such a move out of discontentment could have taken place. There is a need to take decisions in sync with time and young, eligible leaders deserve their due,” Neog said.

Kurmi has a legacy as well. His mother, Rupam Kurmi who represented Mariani constituency for three terms on the trot, passed away while serving as a Congress minister.

His resignation also means that Congress is now left with just three incumbent MLAs in Upper Assam (south bank), Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah (Titabor); Debabrata Saikia (Nazira) and Sushanta Borgohain (Thowra).

The other Congress MLA in the region is veteran party leader, Bharat Chandra Narah from Nowboicha in the north bank.

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