|Headlines Vol. 1 Issue No. 4||Jan.7 - Feb.6, 2002|
Panchayet polls in Assam
Congress makes a clean sweep
After the deadly grams, Vitamin A fiasco and the eye infection cases that rocked the State one by one, the Congress camp must have been forced to fear the worst outcome in the Assam Panchayat polls but the results in favour of the Congress suggest that the opposition parties could not utilise their chances. This win completes a hat-trick of wins for the Congress. After the resounding victory in the Assembly elections in May, 2001, one might recall that the party had also ramped home comprehensive winners in the polls to the autonomous district councils of Karbi Anglong and North Cachar Hills in December, 2001.
Of 345 Zila Parishad seats, the Congress bagged 282 while the AGP and the BJP finished with mere 12 and 18 seats respectively. Of the Anchalik Panchayat seats, the Congress got 1127, while the AGP and the BJP tally read a poor 86 and 93 respectively. Independents and others got 353 seats. Out of 1730 posts of Gaon Panchayat presidents, Congress won 1220 of them while the AGP and the BJP finished with a tally of 92 and 95 respectively. And of the 11,573 Gaon Panchayat members elected, the Congress had the lion’s share of 6443, the AGP tally was 1256 while the BJP managed 1061.
A deeper study into the results shows that the Congress has not only consolidated its traditional support bases in the minority regions and tea garden areas but has also made big inroads in the pockets that were once the strongholds of the AGP.
the Congress camp was upbeat with landslide victory, there was a pall of
gloom in the AGP camp. A confident looking Tarun Gogoi said that the
thundering win was a result of the good work done by his government for
the past seven months which showed the people’s faith in his government.
AGP president Brindaban Goswami, on the other hand reasoned that the party
had paid the price for its ‘past mistakes’, which were still fresh in
the mind of the people. As if the setback was not enough, a fresh power
tussle has also started within the AGP.
The sidelined AGP leaders led by Prafulla Mahanta who are desperate to make a comeback are now trying to make best use of the opportunity. In the party re-organisation that is very much on the cards, the Mahanta camp would try to make the Panchayat poll outcome an issue. Moreover, it is now clear that the change in leadership did not help the AGP to salvage its lost popularity.
The outcome of the poll results also brought in its wake a volley of accusations. AGP chief Brindaban Goswami alleged that the Congress Government conducted the elections in a “very undemocratic manner amid utter chaos”. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) accused the Congress Government of using the state machinery to manipulate the results of the panchayat polls. In fact NCP ranks got angry over the result of the seat of no. 13 Sualkuchi Zila Parishad president. NCP leader and former chief minister Sarat Chandra Sinha alleged that Congress MLA from Jhalukbari Himanta Biswas Sharma used his clout and muscle power to help party candidate Deepak Baishya win the seat by 22 votes after it was publicly declared that NCP candidate H. Kalita had won the seat. The NCP which got 5 out of 8 Zila Parishad seats in Jhalukbari called a 12-hour bandh in the region for protest and is even planning to move court over this issue.
Despite all these accusations, the results will go down as one of the most resounding wins by any party in the Panchayat polls. However, in it also lies a problem. Rishab Borgohain, lecturer of Political Science in Guwahati University, when asked about the result in favour of the Congress said: “What other option did the electorate have? The AGP is in tatters and badly needs to organise themselves. Whatever inroads the BJP has made is a bonus. Then is still no attachment of the people with the saffron party. Its influence is confined to a few urban pockets. That leaves us with just one party.”
Panchayat elections had another significant positive aspect. With the
holding of the elections Central funds for development projects in rural
areas will start coming in. These elections were scheduled to be held in
1997 but the AGP government had kept them postponing for one reason or the
other. The absence of elected panchayat bodies had stopped the inflow of
funds and each block in the State has lost up to 1 crore a year for the
last five years. Here full marks to Tarun Gogoi for holding the panchayat
polls was one of his major pre- election promises.
Your Visit No
Since April 20, 2000