The Congress in Assam wants to save Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the hassle of going through the numbers game as he seeks re-election to the Rajya Sabha. So it has dropped plans to nominate his landlady too.
An Elder from Assam, Singh’s tenure ends later this month along with veteran BJP leader Indramoni Bora. While Singh’s re-election is certain, party insiders said former minister Hemoprova Saikia was one of the Congress contenders for the second seat.
Saikia is the widow of former State chief minister Hiteswar Saikia. She is also the PM’s landlady, having rented out to him the first-floor apartment in her residential complex at Sarumotoria in Guwahati since 1991. Singh pays Rs 700 per month as rent, cheap by city standards, albeit increased from Rs 583 till a year ago.
“The Congress has 59 votes including some Independents besides the 12 of the ruling ally Bodoland People’s Progressive Front. This is adequate for the first choice candidate in the 126-member House. We did not want the PM’s election to be a matter of permutations and combinations, so we decided not to nominate a candidate for the second seat,” a party spokesman said.
Notably, the Congress in Assam has traditionally taken the Rajya Sabha route to rehabilitate sidelined, ageing leaders. Like former chief minister Syeda Anowara Taimur and former CLP chief Sylvius Condapan, who represent the State in the Upper House.
Saikia, who keeps in regular touch with her high-profile tenant, faded away after losing her pet Nazira Assembly constituency to CPI’s Dhrupad Buragohain last year. She was the handloom and sericulture minister in the earlier government headed by Tarun Gogoi.
“It would have been nice to be in the Rajya Sabha along with my tenant,” Saikia told HT, adding she can now concentrate on an overdue foreign trip. She will be away when the Assam legislators elect the two RS candidates on May 24.
Meanwhile, the opposition parties, primarily the Asom Gana Parishad and the BJP, are toying with the idea of a consensus candidate. Former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta tried to “ease the dilemma” by proposing the name of Assamese bard Bhupen Hazarika. “We are yet to take any decision in this regard,” was the reaction from AGP chief Brindaban Goswami and State BJP president Ramen Deka.