A BJP parliamentarian was among a dozen people injured in Guwahati on Wednesday when police cracked down on protesters demanding ouster of the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government in Assam.
Gogoi later justified the police action on the BJP’s Lok Sabha members, MLAs and other leaders who had taken out a protest march to Dispur -- the seat of power -- against “misrule and rampant” corruption in the past 15 years of Congress regime.
Among the injured was BJP’s Mangaldoi MP Ramen Deka, who was taken to a hospital after being allegedly hit on the abdomen and chest, sources said.
The police action is likely to intensify face-off between the Congress and the BJP, which is making a serious bid at capturing power in the state where assembly polls are due early next year.
The ruling party at the Centre recently named Union sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal, 53, as its Assam unit president, potentially elevating him as the party’s chief ministerial candidate. He is likely to be projected as the alternative to Gogoi, a three-time chief minister.
The BJP has been on a protest overdrive after 12 of its MLAs, including 7 who defected from Congress, were suspended on Monday for the entire winter session of the assembly by the speaker.
“The BJP is trying to fan communal passion with the RSS, Bajrang Dal and other Hindutva elements and create a law and order situation so that President’s rule can be imposed,” Gogoi said.
Rubbishing the charges, Sonowal said that Gogoi’s unrestrained comments reflected his fear of the BJP.
“His government has proved its intolerance by opening fire on protesters who had taken out a peaceful march,” he added.
Guwahati police commissioner Mukesh Agarwal denied his force opened fire. “Only tear gas shells were used on the protestors who defied section 144 and had no permission for the march,” he said.
Former Congress minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is now with the BJP, said the silence of the district authorities on letters written to it seeking permission for the protest march was deemed as being granted.
Sarma, once the go-to man for the Assam chief minister, has been made the convenor of the party’s campaign committee and is expected to play a key role in the polls.
Elections for the 126 assembly seats in the northeastern state are expected to be held in March-April.
The Congress has been ruling the state for the past 15 years but is expected to face a tough challenge from the BJP which had won seven out of 14 Lok Sabha seats last year. The Congress had managed only three.
The BJP has already announced its ‘Mission 84+’, targeting to win that many seats in the Assam polls.