The election of two Rajya Sabha (RS) members from Assam on Friday resulted in the suspension of seven non-Congress legislators by their respective parties. It also saw the Congress attracting flak for luring Opposition MLAs with community-specific councils including one for Muslims displaced from Mymensingh in Bangladesh.
Virtually lost in the drama was the election outcome – victory for Congress nominees Nazneen Farooque and Sylvius Condpan.
The Upper House has a quota of seven members for Assam. The term of two of them – Anowara Taimur and Condpan – expired earlier this month necessitating Friday’s election.
The Congress and allies with 78 MLAs in the 126-member House had named All India Mahila Congress secretary Farooque as its first preference and Condpan as the second choice. Condpan’s re-nomination was to ensure local media baron Jayanta Barua, the independent consensus candidate of a combined Opposition, did not win.
The Opposition parties were confident of Barua’s victory, as their combined strength was 48, five more than the minimum required. Asom Gana Parishad led the Opposition with 24 MLAs, BJP and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) with 10 each, CPI (M) with two, CPI and Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC) one each and an Independent.
But the scenario changed by Thursday after Congress dangled community-specific councils for AGP, BJP, AIUDF and ASDC legislators besides allegedly buying them out. Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma went on record about the creation of these development councils.
While the BJP’s renegades were promised councils for the backward Nath-Jogi and Bishnupriya Manipuri communities, another for Muslim settlers from Mymensingh was guaranteed for the AIUDF. If that were not enough, four BJP MLAs went ‘missing’ from Thursday night.,
On Friday, the day of polling, Sarma drove four BJP legislators into the Assembly. Later, the Congress claimed eight Opposition MLAs voted for its candidates. “What can we do if the Opposition parties do not have their houses in order?” asked Sarma, dismissing allegations of horse-trading by the Congress.
Hours later BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad announced the suspension of the quartet – Rumi Nath, Shambhu Singh Mallah, Kartik Sen Sinha and Abhijit Hazarika – from the party. The AIUDF took a similar step against Rasul Hoque Bahadur and Anwarul Haque while the AGP had suspended Abdul Aziz on Thursday.
"What the Congress has done is murder democracy," said AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary. Prasad said the BJP lodged a complaint with Speaker Tanka Bahadur Rai seeking disqualification of the four party legislators who defied the party whip. AIUDF president and MP Badruddin Ajmal referred to the turncoats as "rotten potatoes".