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Assam by-polls: Congress likely to leave one seat to AJP


Guwahati, Sept 30: The Congress is likely to leave at least one assembly seat out of six, where by-polls will take place in coming months, to the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP), sources in the opposition party said on Thursday.

A high-level meeting between Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) chief Bhupen Borah and AJP president Lurinjyoti Gogoi and General Secretary Jagadish Bhuyan took place earlier in the day, sources said.

"The Congress is willing to leave one seat to the AJP as per their request to put up common candidates in the by-polls in Assam. Though not final, we are ready to leave the Majuli seat to them," a senior APCC leader told PTI on condition of anonymity. Six assembly seats are now lying vacant due to deaths and resignations of MLAs. Of those seats, By-elections will take place in five - Thowra, Mariani, Bhabanipur, Tamulpur and Gossaigaon - on October 30.

The Majuli seat is also vacant, but a poll will not be held there on that day as its representative, Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal, resigned from the assembly hours after the poll schedule was announced by the Election Commission. Thowra and Mariani seats were bagged by the Congress during the assembly polls held earlier this year, but the MLAs resigned and joined the ruling BJP.

"The APCC is ready to vacate Mariani if Lurinjyoti Gogoi himself contests from there. If he is not willing, we will give Majuli to them. Both the parties have mutually agreed on this," the Congress leader said.

When contacted, the state Congress president did not deny that there could be a seat-sharing arrangement with the AJP, but said no decision has been taken regarding alliance as a whole for the by-polls.

"We have three committees, which take the final decision. All the three committees will sit separately tomorrow and finalise our strategies," Borah told PTI.

Asked if any understanding with MLA Akhil Gogoi-led Raijor Dal (RD) is possible, Borah said the Congress is ready to talk to the party provided it withdraws its candidate from the Thowra seat. On Wednesday, the RD announced that it will contest two seats -- Thowra and Mariani -- and named the candidate for Thowra. The nominee for Mariani will be decided within this week, Gogoi had said.

"We cannot talk about poll understanding when the RD has already announced its candidate. It cannot dictate terms to us," Borah said.

Akhil Gogoi in the press conference on Wednesday appealed to the Congress, with whom the RD had tried to field common candidates for the by-polls to defeat the ruling NDA, to support their candidates.

"If they (Congress) support us, we will campaign for them in the remaining four seats," he had said. Meanwhile, the CPI which was a part of the Congress-led Grand Alliance during the assembly elections, announced to field Krishna Gogoi from Thowra.

The Congress, which was in power for 15 years in Assam since 2001, had formed the 'Grand Alliance' with the AIUDF, BPF, CPI(M), CPI, CPI(ML), Anchalik Gana Morcha (AGM), RJD, Adivasi National Party (ANP) and the Jimochayan (Deori) Peoples Party (JPP) to fight the BJP-led NDA in the assembly election this year. In the 126-member Assam Assembly, the BJP's strength at present is 59. Of its allies, the AGP has nine and the UPPL has five MLAs. The Congress' strength is 27, while AIUDF has 15 members, BPF has three and the CPI(M) has one legislator. There is one Independent MLA.

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