DIBRUGARH, April 3 - With the first phase polling day for the Lok Sabha elections nearing fast, candidates are accelerating their campaign momentum to the extent possible. For the Dibrugarh Lok Sabha seat too, a triangular contest is emerging, with Bhaben Baruah of the National People�s Party (NPP) literally nibbling at the heels of Paban Singh Ghatowar of the Congress and Rameswar Teli of the BJP. For the record, however, there are eight contestants in the fray here. But barring the trio mentioned above, electioneering by the others can be described as palliative, at best.
Baruah, a former minister of state of the Assam Government, has been twice MLA from Chabua, once in 1985 and again in 1996. He joined the NPP on March 14 and the party offered him the Dibrugarh Lok Sabha ticket. The NPP, which is a nascent political party in Assam, is still functioning with an ad-hoc state committee, with retired IPS officer Dilip Borah as the convener. Baruah told The Assam Tribune that the NPP�s special appeal is that it is a regional political party with a spine. �Our leader Conrad Sangma (Chief Minister of Meghalaya) had the spine to tell Prime Minister Modi that the Citizenship Amendment Bill will not be in the interest of the northeast, and has to be repealed. Our country is a federal structure where strong chief ministers make the country greater,� he said.
With the Citizenship Bill still a strong social issue in Assam, Baruah has latched on to it, and in the process is giving the Congress and BJP camps some electoral competition. His election campaign hinges around the permanent repeal of the Bill and sugarcoated by promises of several projects in the constituency, including an International Trading Centre along the Stilwell Road near Jagun, a mega statue of Lachit Borphukan near the Bogibeel bridge, a major rail museum in Dibrugarh, a tea museum at Chabua, etc.
Speaking to this newspaper, prominent Congress leader and candidate for the constituency, Paban Singh Ghatowar says the Citizenship Bill issue continues to remain a burning topic, and that the BJP�s views on it are against the will of the people of the State. He regretted that the BJP president Amit Shah continues to remain adamant on reintroducing the Bill and making it a law. Ghatowar said the people of Assam will not accept the Bill and that this will be reflected in this time�s election results. Ghatowar, who has already been Dibrugarh MP five times earlier, is in the election fray for a sixth term.
Facing considerable flak and still remaining in the ring for a fight is Rameswar Teli of the BJP, who wants voters to vote for his second Lok Sabha term. He has been labelled a �silent MP� by many, as he has hardly spoken for the Dibrugarh constituency in the past five years. Despite the allegations of being incompetent, he puts up a brave face, hoping to ride piggyback on his party�s credentials.