Tuesday, May 8, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Sonia blasts AGP, BJP
Gaurav Choudhury
Tribune News Service

Nalbari, May 7
Congress President Sonia Gandhi today lent muscle to the party’s campaigning in the trouble-torn state of Assam in the backdrop of allegations of a nexus between the party and the outlawed United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA).

The campaign managers of the party may have sought to set the record straight by organising a public rally of Mrs Gandhi in Nalbari district, a traditional stronghold of the Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) and also where 12 persons have already lost their lives in pre-poll violence suspected to be orchestrated by ULFA.

Mrs Gandhi today accused the ruling AGP of surrendering to the dictates of the BJP. While one is responsible for the sorry plight of Assam, the other (BJP) is responsible for the whole country , the Congress President said at a rally here.

Mrs Gandhi did not touch upon the alleged connivance between the Congress and ULFA and instead sought to allay fears among the people by only saying that the sense of insecurity was indicative of the mis-governance of the existing regime.

Interestingly, Nalbari is also the home of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of ULFA, Mr Raju Baruah.

Stopping short of making any explicit promise, the Congress President only said that if the Congress came to power the citizens would be assured of a secured social ambience.

The AGP promised so much. But the opposite happened and today there is an environment of hatred and insecurity, she said adding that this was never the case when the Congress was in power in the state previously.

In a bid to woo to the traditionally ascribed minority votes, Mrs Gandhi categorically stated that the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act will not be repealed.

The IMDT Act has always been a bone of contention among the political parties here who have used the name of the Act to further their interests. The IMDT Act, which replaced the erstwhile Foreigners Act, was essentially legislated to identify and deport the illegal Bangladeshi migrants through the process of trial through specially instituted tribunals.

Interestingly, the AGP and BJP have been swaying the ideological pendulum both in favour and against the IMDT without any consistency.

Mrs Gandhi’s statement against the repealing of the legislation comes close on the heels of the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s assertion that the government may consider providing work permits to Bangladeshi migrants.

Nalbari, where the Congress President today addressed a rally of about 20,000, has been the site of constant political turbulence with ULFA’s regular strikes helping to maintain the tension even when the polls were not in the picture.

There are four Assembly constituencies within the district of Nalbari and the AGP holds all the four seats. However, with ULFA’s threat looming large and its call for a ban to the Assembly polls on May 10, AGP’s traditional bastion may be required some defending to do.

Two Ministers in the current cabinet of the Prafulla Kumar Mahanta Ministry are also in the fray from this district.

State Agriculture Minister Chandramohan Patowary, who has never been defeated in three successive hustings since 1985 from the Dharampur Assembly constituency, has been pitted against Nilamani Sen Deka of the Congress.

Mr Patowary, who has had to bear the brunt of the militant’s wrath had witnessed the killing of at least eight of his party workers, has counter-attacked by launching a scathing verbal offensive on the Congress’s subversive tactics.

Social Welfare Minister Rekha Rani Das Boro is also in the fray from the Barama ( Reserved) constituency and may receive a tough fight from PaniRam Rabha of the Congress.

Mr Rabha had turned the tables on Ms Boro in 1991 after conceding defeat in 1985 - the first time the AGP joined the electoral fray. She however, regained the seat again in 1996.

A potentially interesting battle is building up between the Ms Alaka Desai Sarma, the widow of former PWD and Forest Minister Nagen Sarma, who was slain by ULFA militants, and Madan Kalita of the Congress. While the late Nagen Sarma had remained undefeated in the all the three hustings since 1985, it may not be a cakewalk for his widow Ms Desai.Back


Grenade attack on Cong office

Guwahati, May 7
An Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) worker was shot dead by ULFA militants in Lakhimpur district last night while a grenade attack on Congress campaign office of Rangjuli in Goalapara district yesterday left eight persons wounded.

An ULFA militant was shot dead by the Army near Gohpur in Sontipur district. He camping near a tea estate with a view to attacking Speaker Ganesh Kutum, who is an AGP candidate from Gohpur.

Another militant was killed in an encounter with the police Kalahapahar area here while two civilians were killed when suspected ULFA militants fired on a group of people at Gobradal chowk in Tihu of Nalbari district.

Three policemen were among the wounded in an attack on Congress office. Nothing happened to the party candidate from Dudhnoi, Pranay Rabha as he was not in the office.

A Congress election office was also torched by militants at Naoboicha in Jorhat.

Time bomb planted by militants exploded at the Congress campaign office in Rangjuli last night, minutes after Rabha left the place.

Besides six Congress workers, officer-in-charge of Rangjuli police station H.N. Singh, an assistant sub-inspector and a constable were injured in the explosion, the police said.

In another incident in the district, an ULFA militant was killed when a grenade exploded in his hands at Dudhnoi, the police added.

Meanwhile, intensive patrolling was on in vulnerable areas throughout the state. The ULFA’s stepped up pre-poll violence has killed 35 persons and injured over 60 others.

Detection of a time-bomb planted in the reservation counter building of the Guwahati Railway station today averted a major tragedy, the station Superintendent said. The bomb timed to explode at 1 p.m. and concealed in a plastic bag, was detected by the public in the crowded reservation building around 10.45 a.m., he said. UNI, PTI

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