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Friends turn foes in poll battle

By R Dutta Choudhury

GUWAHATI, March 19 � Politics sometimes throws up interesting scenarios where one-time friends are forced to turn into foes in the elections. One such case emerging now is the contest between Phani Bhushan Choudhury of the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Chandra Mohan Patowary of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the Barpeta Lok Sabha constituency.

Choudhury and Patowary were once very close to each other and worked together for the AGP. When Patowary became president of the AGP, Choudhury was working president and they worked together for quite some time. In fact, they knew each other since the Assam agitation days and became close to each other after formation of the AGP in 1985. But now they will have to contest against each other after Patowary recently quit the regional party to join the BJP.

Commenting on the situation that he is facing now, Choudhury hoped that their personal friendship would continue and the electoral battle would be between the AGP and the BJP. He admitted that he would not go for personal criticism against Patowary in the election campaign and �our contest will be an ideological one between a regional and a national party.�

Choudhury is hurt that his one-time close friend did not even consult him before leaving the AGP to join the BJP. �In fact, I fought for Patowary�s candidature for the Barpeta seat in the steering committee meeting of the AGP. But without even informing me, he joined the BJP and I feel betrayed,� he added.

Patowary also said that he would not go for personal criticism of Choudhury in the election campaign. He admitted that he was not feeling good about contesting against his friend in the elections. He admitted, � we were very close since the formation of the AGP and in fact we were two sides of the same coin. Even if we contest the polls as rivals, the personal friendship will always remain.� He also assured that anytime Choudhury needs any personal help, he would be there with him.

Patowary pointed out that he and Choudhury worked very closely as president and working president respectively of the AGP and managed to bring back a number of senior leaders, who had left the AGP earlier, into the party fold. But the present leadership was not interested in an alliance with the BJP to prevent division of the anti-Congress votes, which prompted him to join the BJP.

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