There is a tough fight between the Congress candidate Abhishek Manu Singhvi and BJP candidate Harsha Mahajan amid speculations of cross-voting as polling for the lone Rajya Sabha seat in Himachal Pradesh is underway on Tuesday.
Bhupen Kumar Borah, after assuming the leadership of the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee in 2021, has been working to rejuvenate the party in the state. As a two-time MLA who has held various significant roles within the party, his focus remains on restor- ing the former eminence of the Con- gress in the state. In an exclusive interview with Abhijit Deb of The Statesman, Borah offered insights into the party’s strategies for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. He elaborated on the extensive efforts made over the past two years, high- lighting the implemented changes aimed at revitalizing the Congress’s presence in Assam.
Q: How is Congress posi- tioned in Assam as the 2024 Par- liamentary Elections draw near?
A: Congress in Assam is gearing up for the Parliamentary Elections in 2024 with renewed vigor. Our primary focus has been on reviving and reacti- vating defunct booths, which consti- tuted about 60 per cent after the last assembly elections. Over the past year, we’ve successfully reenergized these booths, fostering a new wave of enthusiasm among grassroots party workers and leaders across all regions of Assam, be it Upper Assam, tea belts, Lower Assam, Karbi Anglong, or Bodo Territorial Region. This resur- gence indicates a promising come- back for Congress in the upcoming elections.
Q: What’s the status of the INDIA alliance’s formation in Assam?
A: The INDIA alliance is shaping up to be a significant advantage for Con- gress in Assam. In the previous assem- bly elections, the division of votes led to the loss of 13 assembly segments. However, under the banner of the INDIA alliance, nearly all opposition parties in Assam are now united including regional parties like Raijor Dal and Asom Jatiya Parishad. This unity will work in favor of Congress and strengthen our position signifi- cantly.
Q: Have there been talks regarding seat adjustments for the 2024 parliamentary elec- tions?
A: Regarding seat adjustment for the 2024 parliamentary elections, Assam has 14 parliamentary seats, and while the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee is prepared to contest all seats, we are open to seat adjust- ments within the INDIA alliance. The final decision on seat sharing will rest with the party’s senior lead- ership, but our assessment of all parliamentary seats in the state will soon be forwarded for considera- tion.
Q: What are the focal points on which Congress intends to campaign during the elections?
A: The key issues Congress will address in the elections revolve around exposing the rampant corrup- tion within the BJP government in the state. Specifically, we’ll highlight the corruption allegations against Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his family, shedding light on how state resources are being exploited. Addi- tionally, we’ll emphasize the short- comings of welfare-centric schemes implemented by the central govern- ment, revealing their failure to benefit the people effectively.
Q: Following Congress’s back- to-back losses in the 2024 assem- bly elections, there were reports of a drop in morale within the party and conflicts among sen- ior state leaders, leading to sev- eral defections. At that juncture, you assumed leadership of the party. What transformations have occurred since then?
A: After consecutive losses in the assembly elections, there were indeed challenges that affected the party’s morale, leading to reports of friction among senior leadership and some desertions. However, since taking the helm, we’ve witnessed significant changes. The party in Assam has evolved over the past two years, with extensive efforts made to reinvigorate and reengage with the people. Through extensive travels across Assam, there’s a noticeable shift in the public’s perception of politics. We’ve worked to dispel BJP’s attempts to manipulate sentiments around Hindu-Muslim issues, and people are becoming more discerning about their choices.
Q: In recent years, a signifi- cant number of tea garden labourers, influential in over 25 assembly constituencies, have distanced themselves from Con- gress. How does Congress plan to regain the trust of these tea gar- den voters?
A: There’s a perception that tea gar- den labourers, who hold considerable influence in over 25 assembly con- stituencies, have distanced them- selves from Congress. However, this isn’t entirely accurate. While there might have been discontentment among them, it’s a sentiment we’ve actively addressed. Engaging with 104 tea gardens over 22 days, we’ve lis- tened to their concerns, particularly their dissatisfaction with the unful- filled promises of wage hikes by the BJP government. Congress has histor- ically stood by the tea garden commu- nities, and they recognize our com- mitment to addressing their needs, unlike the hollow promises of other parties. The failure of welfare schemes, like the Ujjwala Scheme, has further disillusioned them, and they see through these inadequacies.
Q: What is the current stand- ing of Congress in relation to the party led by Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, AIUDF?
A: As for the relationship with Maulana Badruddin Ajmal’s AIUDF, Congress maintains no affiliation with them. Past alliances with AIUDF have proven costly, and our focus remains on the INDIA alliance, aiming to dis- place the BJP both at the state and national levels.