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Anjan Dutta to be party�s star campaigner

By Spl Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 15 - On the defensive over denying ticket to PCC president Anjan Dutta, the AICC today clarified that he would be star campaigner of the party, which is trying to come back to power for the fourth consecutive time.

Within hours of releasing the list of 65 candidates for the first phase of polls, AICC general secretary in-charge for Assam, Dr CP Joshi, briefing newsmen from Assam said that keeping the significance of Dutta�s leadership in mind, the AICC plans to use him for extensive State-wide campaigning.

�AICC has decided to engage him in campaigning all-over Assam because the party needs a full-time campaigner,� he said.

The problem for the ruling party surfaced when Speaker Pranab Kumar Gogoi put his foot down and refused to budge from contesting the Sivasagar seat. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi reportedly did not oppose his candidature.

A senior leader told this newspaper that the party did not want to take the risk of dropping Pranab Gogoi because of the pending Rajya Sabha election, which he would conduct. As the Congress party still runs short of 10 MLA s to bag the second seat, the Party in its wisdom decided not to disturb him, said sources.

Furthermore, the Chief Minister, who at one point of time did not see eye to eye, decided to bury the hatchet because of Pranab Gogoi�s role in handling the expulsion of Himanta Biswa Sarma and his brigade of nine MLAs, said sources.

Meanwhile, the Congress has dropped two MLAs, Amiya Gogoi and Sarat Saikia, while five MLAs have opted out of contesting the polls. Otherwise, the first list did not contain much surprise, as a majority of the sitting MLAs have been re-nominated.

The most interesting decision was to field former union minister Paban Singh Ghatowar from the Moran seat. Ghatowar who was camping in the capital for a Rajya Sabha nomination was a surprise choice, as he had nominated his son in place of his wife Jeevan Tara Ghatowar.

Meanwhile, asked about the possibility of the Congress party aligning with Janashakti Party, Dr Joshi said that they are still talking to like-minded parties. �Our doors are still open,� he said.

About AIUDF cornering a majority of the seats in the minority belt, Dr Joshi was evasive and said that the biggest challenge for the party in Assam was to keep its diversity intact.

When asked whether the Congress would retain Tarun Gogoi as the chief minister if it comes to power, Dr Joshi said that it is the convention that the Congress party fights elections under the chief minister. �After the election, the MLAs will decide on selecting its new leader,� he said.

Dr Joshi said that in the first phase 22 youths have been fielded, besides 11 women candidates.

Of the 65 candidates, 33 are graduates, two MBBS, 10 Post-graduate and 17 matric pass. �In the first phase, we have decided to field five new faces,� he said.

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