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Tezpur MP RP Sharma quits BJP
SPL CORRESPONDENT

RP Sharma, Rajen Gohain
 NEW DELHI, March 16 - In a day of hectic political activity, Tezpur MP RP Sharma has resigned from the BJP, while Union Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain has opted out of the Lok Sabha poll race.

The development came even as the BJP’s central leadership today asked State minister Himanta Biswa Sarma not to contest the Lok Sabha polls and instead concentrate on the elections in the North Eastern States as the NEDA convener.

While old alliances are falling apart, new ones are apparently being forged. An agitated RP Sharma, who quit the BJP after being denied a ticket, is being wooed by the Congress to contest from Tezpur.

Resigning from the primary membership of the BJP, Sharma said that after serving the RSS and the VHP for 15 years and the BJP for 29 years, he felt greatly insulted as being a sitting MP and the president of the Assam Gorkha Sammelan, his name did not find a place in the panel sent by the State BJP committee.

Sharma alleged that senior State BJP leaders like Rajen Gohain, Ramen Deka and himself had felt neglected in the new set-up of the saffron party.

Meanwhile, Gohain, who has been at the centre of a controversial case, said he would not contest polls until he had cleared his name. However, he has pushed for his wife’s name for the Nagaon seat which he currently represents. Rita Nath Gohain is now being considered as a probable candidate by the BJP.

In another development, minister Himanta Biswa Sarma also met BJP president Amit Shah. Sarma is understood to have been advised by the party leadership to opt out of the Lok Sabha race and concentrate on the elections in the other North Eastern States. Sources close to him said that he has been offered the option of contesting for a Rajya Sabha seat, which falls vacant in June.

The Parliamentary Board of the BJP, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, started a meeting here this afternoon. Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Ramen Deka and other members of the State Election Committee attended it.

Meanwhile, Gohain told newsmen that a “false case” had been lodged against him. “After investigation, the police did not find anything incriminating against me. My name was also cleared by the lower court. The case is now in the High Court, and the next date of hearing is on March 25,” he said.

“As March 25 is the last date for filing nominations and if the case does not come up for hearing, I will not be able to prove my innocence. Therefore, I have decided not to contest the election till my name is cleared. Once I am declared innocent, I will abide by whatever my party says,” Gohain said.

Asked whether the party pressurised him to opt out of the electoral battle, Gohain said that it was his personal decision. “I will work as an ordinary party worker, and not allow the party’s name to be tarnished,” he said.

On his name appearing second in the panel recommended by the State leadership, Gohain said as a sitting MP he was entitled to be considered for renomination. “But I have taken a moral stand and decided not to contest the polls,” he said.

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