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Cong likely to field ‘apolitical face’ for RS seat
PRANJAL BHUYAN
 GUWAHATI, May 13 - The principal Opposition party Congress is mulling the idea of fielding some ‘non-party’ or ‘apolitical face’ for one of the two Rajya Sabha seats from Assam, for which elections will take place soon.

The grand old party is also exploring the option to seek the support of ‘disgruntled’ MLAs of NDA constituent Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in the Rajya Sabha polls.

“Elections will be held for two of the Rajya Sabha seats from Assam. The BJP on its own can secure one of the upcoming vacancies. At the same time, we have only 25 MLAs in the legislative Assembly and, as such, we are in a position to win the other seat on our own strength.

So, to overcome the problem of arithmatic and to ensure that one seat remains with the Opposition, our party is ready to back some ‘apolitical face’ or a person who is not formally a member of any political party,” a senior State Congress office-bearer told The Assam Tribune today.

He added, “We are sure of securing the support of the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), which has 13 MLAs. Together, the combined strength of the Congress and the AIUDF stands at 38 legislators in the Assembly.

Besides, a number of AGP MLAs are dissatisfied with the present leadership of their party. Therefore, the probability is very high that if we field some apolitical person, the ‘dissident’ section within the AGP Legislature Party will back that particular candidate.”

The terms of former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Santiuse Kujur, both Rajya Sabha members of the Congress party from Assam, will end on June 14.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) is likely to announce the notification for the polls very shortly.

A candidate will need at least 43 ‘first preference votes’ to win a Rajya Sabha seat. In the 126-member Assam Legislative Assembly, the BJP has 61 MLAs, while its allies AGP and BPF have 14 and 12 legislators respectively. The ruling coalition also has the support of the lone Independent MLA in the Assembly.

On the other hand, among the Opposition benches, the Congress has 25 MLAs and the AIUDF has 13 legislators.

The AIUDF has already indicated that it is ready to either field a joint candidate with the Congress or to support a nominee of the principal Opposition party for one of the two seats.

“We will appeal to the AGP legislators to exercise conscience vote in the Rajya Sabha polls. Many AGP MLAs, including Pabindra Deka, Brindaban Goswami, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Utpal Dutta are unhappy with the present leadership of the party on account of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill issue. If we manage to secure their votes, or even if they abstain, the contest for the second vacancy in the Rajya Sabha polls will bog down to the ‘second preference votes’. That way, we will be able to ensure defeat of the ruling NDA in one of the two seats,” said the Congress leader.

The latest development comes at a time when it is becoming certain that BJP, which is the senior ally in the ruling coalition, is likely to leave one of the two upcoming Rajya Sabha vacancies from the State for the AGP.

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