NEW DELHI, March 4 � Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi albeit grudgingly admitted that corruption might well become a poll issue, though he defended his ministers, shifting the onus of establishing the charges on the Opposition.
Addressing a �meet the press� programme hosted by the Press Club of India, a confident-looking Gogoi slammed the Opposition for raking up the issue of �corruption�, and pooh-poohed AGP�s attempt to cobble together a common platform to take on the ruling Congress. He replied to questions over ULFA peace process, his future plans and his age.
�Age is not a factor and a person may be 80 years old and he may have the same energy level. I am 76-year-old and I feel as young as you are,� he told a reporter, when asked whether he felt disadvantaged because of his age.
The Chief Minister further remarked that age should not be factor in the nomination process.
On the bid to form a grand alliance by the Opposition, Gogoi remarked that he fails to understand what type of �khichdi� was this. The AGP and BJP have fought election together in the past and we could defeat them,� he said.
Though the Chief Minister mostly repeated what he has been maintaining, on corruption, he did concede that there might be �corruption cases here and there� but argued in the same breath that the Opposition has failed to prove any of the allegations, it has levelled.
Replying to questions, the Chief Minister, accompanied by his son Gaurav Gogoi admitted that there might be few corruption cases at the local level, but he reiterated that the Opposition has not been able to prove any specific charges. �They (Opposition) have not been able to bring any new charges. If you have any specific charges give it directly to the CBI. Till now nobody has given anything,� said Gogoi, giving a clean chit to his ministers.
He referred to the North Cachar Hill scam and reiterated that it was he who initiated action and brought in the CBI. �I have already handed over nine cases and another six to nine cases would be referred,� he stressed, adding that it was he who decided to bring in the CBI last year, before the Opposition woke up.
On the peace process with ULFA, Gogoi said talks were on the right direction. But he added that further talks would be held after the election. The Government of India is trying to get Anup Chetia extradited.
Gogoi said that Paresh Barua�s group has been weakened and they have threatened the Congress. These types of threat is not new to the Congress and Paresh Baruah�s group is not so strong now, he said, adding that he was quite confident of a vast majority of ULFA men coming for talks.
Meanwhile, the Chief Minister called on AICC general secretary in-charge Digvijay Singh this evening in connection with selection of candidates. The general secretary is expected to leave for Guwahati on Saturday to take part in the Pradesh Election Committee meeting next week.
Ahead of the Assembly polls, the Chief Minister is flying to Tirupati tomorrow to seek the blessings of Lord Venkates-wara. He would take part in a yagya being specially organised at his request, said sources.