CM-governor verbal duel, Congress dissidence dominated in poll-bound Assam (2015 In Retrospect)

Guwahati, Dec 15 (IANS) A war of words between Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Governor P.B. Acharya, dissidence and desertions from the ruling Congress, intensified security operations against the anti-talk faction of the National Democratic Front of Bodoland and the loss of 60 lives in floods dominated 2015 in Assam.

As the year draws to a close, it has set the tone for next year’s assembly polls, primarily between the ruling Congress and the BJP.

Acharya, the full-time governor of Nagaland holding additional charge in Assam, has been going all guns blazing at the Gogoi government, particularly on issues such as corruption and rhino-poaching,

However, his public criticism of the government has not gone down well with the Congress, which accused him of acting as an agent of the BJP and the RSS. Going a step further, Gogoi asked the governor not to cross the line and demanded his ouster.

The face-off first came to the fore early this year when Acharya summoned Forest Minister Atuwa Munda to Raj Bhavan in the wake of the spate in rhino killings at the Kaziranga National Park. The fight peaked within days when the governor warned that anyone, including ministers, indulging in corruption would be jailed.

The Congress saw several ups and downs through the year. A three-time chief minister, Gogoi, who almost single-handedly brought the party to power in 2001, undertook a ministerial reshuffle – a first during his 14-year stint in the hot seat. He however continued to face dissidence led by a section of the party leaders, who demanded a change in leadership.

Although senior party leaders rushed to quell the dissidence, yet the rebellion from within and the subsequent infighting cost the party dear. The Congress was routed in the civic polls.

The dissidence also led to former health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma crossing over to the BJP.

Nine Congress legislators, known for their loyalty to Sarma, followed suit, prompting the Congress to look for like-minded partners in the coming polls from among its rivals like the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Left parties.

The BJP, which stole the show last year by winning seven of Assam’s 14 Lok Sabha seats, also suffered due to infighting in its ranks.

But days after its drubbing in the Bihar polls, the BJP brought back its face in Assam Minister for Sports Sarbananda Sonowal – as state chief and also named him its chief ministerial candidate for next year’s elections.

Apart from the political moves, stepped up operations by the police and the army against the anti-talk faction of NDFB militants saw neutralisation of over 20 cadres of the outfit and the arrest of more than 300 cadres.

The floods, which came in four waves, affected over two million people and temporarily displaced 1.5 million of the population.

The Sheena Bora murder case also rocked the state. The CBI teams visited Assam several times to quiz Mikhail Bora, the brother of Sheena and son of the main accused Indrani Mukherjea, a local girl and wife of media honcho Peter Mukherjea, both of whom are in custody in Mumbai as the CBI has taken over the probe into Sheena Bora’s killing three years ago and its ramifications.

The year, however, ended on a positive note with the extradition of jailed ULFA general secretary Anup Chetia from Bangladesh to India, a long-standing demand of the Ulfa faction involved in the talks process with New Delhi.

The extradition of Chetia is likely to give a new direction to the peace process in Assam.

Highllights:

* Assam Governor (additional charge) P.B. Acharya’s public criticism of Congress-led government forced the ruling party to accuse him of behaving like a BJP member and demand his ouster

* Police and security forces stepped up operations against the NDFB’s anti-talk faction

* Rajnath Singh visits Assam, says there will be no talks with those involved in violence

* Gogoi reshuffles his council of ministers, first time in his three consecutive terms

* BJP ups its graph in Assam by defeating Congress in civic polls

* Congress legislator Rumi Nath arrested and sent to judicial custody for nexus with pan-Indian car theft racket

* Over 60 people killed in floods

* Sheena Bora murder case

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