Ahead of the election results for Assam Assembly polls, the Congress is hopeful of victory but there is a churning in the party with state leaders insisting in informal conversations that the next Chief Minister must be chosen from one of the winning MLAs.
Since the Congress has a number of chief ministerial aspirants including Gaurav Gogoi, who is close to Rahul Gandhi, party leaders are wary of him being parachuted from Delhi at the final moment.
Other leaders who are frontrunners for the top post include state President Ripun Bora and Debabrata Saikia, former leader of opposition in the assembly. Both these leaders have a long political career behind them and are also contesting for the assembly polls.
While the Congress has not declared anybody as the chief-ministerial face and fought unitedly, the final call is likely to be taken by the party’s high command. The convention within the Congress has been to take the opinion from the MLAs and then the top leader nominating the Chief Minister. In the 2018 assembly elections, for instance, Sachin Pilot lost in the last lap to Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan and Jyotiraditya Scindia to Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh.
In Assam, the leaders are tight-lipped and say that the high command will decide but insist that the CM should be from the MLAs, and leaders who have fought the BJP day in and day out must be given a chance and not somebody who stays outside the state.
Congress leaders in the state are counting on the support of MLAs but party insiders say that it cannot be predicted whom Sonia Gandhi is likely to choose after the results.
Still, if the party performs well in upper Assam, which is a BJP stronghold, Saikia’s claim will be stronger. Bora, who was close to Tarun Gogoi, is also one of the top contenders. Still, given Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh’s close ties with the Hiteshwar Saikia family, his son could become the top choice for Congress.
To take on the ruling BJP in the elections, the Congress, which governed Assam for 15 consecutive years (2001-2016), formed a 10-party ‘Mahajot’ (grand alliance) with three Left parties — the CPI (M), the CPI, and the CPI (ML) — and six regional and local parties — the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), the Anchalik Gana Morcha, the BPF, the RJD, the Jimochayan (Deori) People’s Party and the Adivasi National Party.
The results of the Assam Assembly polls will be declared on May 2.