Rajya Sabha: Political Somersault
GUWAHATI: Politics makes strange bedfellows and there is perhaps nothing stranger than what has happened in Assam with regard to the nominations of candidates for the three seats of the Rajya Sabha.
As the curtains to the nomination filing process for three seats of the Upper House of Parliament came down on Friday evening, one thing became aptly clear that in politics there no permanent friends or foes; it’s always a combination of convenience.
Otherwise, what explains the fact that former chief minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, holding the hand of AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal in a public display of affection accompanied senior journalist Ajit Bhuyan to file his nomination papers on Friday as their joint candidate.
Gogoi’s famous quote “Who is Badruddin Ajmal?” now stands done and dusted.
Displaying a similar political somersault skill, BJP also tried to bury an old hatchet by propping up the name of another journalist Atanu Bhuyan but just stopped short of doing so. The love-hate story between Bhuyan and his earlier boss Himanta Biswa Sarma is known to one and all.
However, at the end of it, the saffron brigade decided against it as the numbers game was not in its favour to get the third candidate from its camp to the Rajya Sabha.
The strength of Assam assembly (and so the electoral college) at present stands at 124 seats with BJP at 60, ally AGP at 14 and BPF at 12 seats. On the other hand, Congress is at 23 and AIDUF at 14 seats with one independent; two seats are lying vacant.
The road to Rajya Sabha for two of the candidates Bhubaneswar Kalita and Biswajit Daimiry, both supported by the ruling party and its allies is pretty much clear. However, former state Congress chief Bhubaneswar Kalita filed his nomination as the ruling BJP-led coalition government's candidate for Rajya Sabha from Assam.
Kalita, who had joined the BJP last year after opposing his party’s stand on scrapping of Article 370 in Kashmir, was duly rewarded for his changed loyalties.
On the brink of political oblivion, Kalita joined the saffron brigade which has enabled him to contest for the post for the fifth time in row without having a toe-hold in any politics in the state.
Experts say that Mr Kalita has been plain lucky in his political career. Starting from Rajya Sabha, he was member of Lok Sabha, was a cabinet minister in Assam and was APCC chief for 10 years from 2004 to 2014.
The second candidate Biswajit Daimary, the BPF leader who is seeking re-election to the Upper House as the ruling coalition's partner Bodoland People's Front's (BPF) nominee, filed his nomination earlier.
Interestingly, in Assam two seats fell vacant as both the Rajya Sabha members from the state, Sanjay Singh and Kalita, both selected to the upper house as Congress candidates, switched sides to BJP.
With BJP’s numbers it was clear that both its supported candidates will easily sail through while a divided opposition votes would have given the saffron brigade a chance to push its third candidate.
And it became a real possibility in the last few days with BJP’s chief strategist Himanta Biswa Sarma hinting that many Congress MLAs will walk over to saffron camp. However, till the last date of filing of nominations only a single Congress MLA from Barak valley region is likely to join BJP.
With BJP not pitching for the third candidate, it was a major relief for the united opposition candidate Ajit Bhuyan who also filed his nomination on Friday, accompanied by senior Congress leaders like ex-CM Tarun Gogoi and state party chief Ripun Bora, and AIUDF president Badruddin Ajmal.
The Congress and the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) had earlier announced supporting Bhuyan, a senior journalist and prominent leader of anti-CAA movement in the state, as its joint candidate for the Rajya Sabha.
Election for the three Rajya Sabha seats in Assam is scheduled on March 26 next.