The cross-voting by a section of opposition political parties in Assam has finally helped Congress to win two seats for Rajya Sabha in the March 26th polls. In a close contest, the Indian National Congress nominees Nazneen Faroque and Silvius Condopan had won from Assam. On the other hand, Jayanta Barua, a media baron and the common opposition candidate lost in the exercise.
The Assam State assembly includes 126 members and all were present to exercise their franchises. The ruling Congress has 54 MLAs in the House and its ally Bodoland People’s Front has 11 members. The main opposition party Asom Gana Parishad has 24 members. AGP’s electoral ally Bharatiya Janata Party has 10 members. The All India United Democratic Front has the same number of MLAs.
But four BJP MLAs defied the party whip to vote for the Congress candidates. Subsequently they (Abhijit Hazarika, Rumi Nath, Kartiksena Sinha and SS Malla) invited suspension from the BJP. Addressing the media persons in Guwahati, the BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad disclosed about it on the poll day itself.
Even two AIUDF MLAs (Anowarul Haque and Rashiul Haque) with one from AGP (Abdul Aziz) and another from Autonomous State Demand Committee (Jagat Singh Engty) voted for the Congress candidates. They too were cautioned by their respective parties.
For the Congress, however, the first preference candidate was Nazneen Faroque, a general secretary of All India Mohila Congress. The second one was the outgoing RS member Silvius Condopan, who later got re-elected. With Condopan, the other RS member from Assam, whose term was completed, was Syeda Anowara Taimur (INC).
It is worthy of mentioning that the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh also represents Assam in RS, whereas the other members from the State in the house include Bhubaneshwar Kalita (INC), Kumar Deepak Das (AGP), Birendra Prasad Baishya (AGP) and Biswajit Daimary (BPF).
Soon after the result came out, the triumphant Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi thanked all the supporting legislators and also the people of Assam. On the other hand, the opposition leader CM Patowary termed the Congress victory as the ‘assassination of democracy’. He argued that the Congress might have won both the RS seats, but they have been morally defeated.
The RS polls in Assam passed through a high voltage drama revolving around the combined opposition candidate. Initially, it was understood that like many individuals from different fields of activities, Barua, a non-political businessman, was expecting space in prestigious upper house of Indian Parliament. So when Barua submitted his nomination papers as an independent candidate for RS, there was nothing exceptional.
It was in fact, usual for the proprietor of ‘Asomiya Pratidin’, a highly circulated Assamese daily newspaper, Barua to opt for a berth in RS. But his candidature elicited charged reactions from the people in general and media fraternity of Assam in particular. Though Barua is recognized as a successful and caring businessman by his many employees, it cannot be hidden that his daily newspaper remains critical of the Rashtrajantra (meaning the Indian State) since the days of its inception. The anti-New Delhi sentiments of the newspaper, where Barua functions as an active and influential proprietor, are visible enough in most of its news, articles and editorials.
The newspaper is also an ardent supporter of Assamese nationalism. On many occasions, it has acted as a moral supporter of the various activities of the United Liberation Front of Assam. Its executive editor Parag Kumar Das, who was a luminous human rights activist and also an aggressive supporter of ULFA, was killed by miscreants (read surrendered ULFA militants) in 1997.
So the question that was asked by many serious citizens, whether Jayanta Barua had finally realized that it was wrong to preach anti-New Delhi slogans and hence lately changed his mind. Or was it a marketing strategy to spread enough hatred against the government machinery to earn the benefits after playing with the sentiments of thousands of readers?
Whatever may be the convincing reason, it finally establishes the greatness of Indian democracy, as the system lured a man of opposite thoughts to join as a lawmaker in the upper house of Parliament. Even if Barua fails in the process, he had eventually proved that he too nurtures hope and expectation from the very Rashtrajantra, for which he seems to harbour bitterness only.