New Delhi, May 13 (IANS) Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has ruled out any possibility of forming a secular Third Front to keep the BJP away from power as he is “confident” of returning to power in the state for a consecutive fourth term.
“We are definitely going to get the majority. We’ll reach the magic figure of 64, nothing less than that,” Gogoi told IANS in an interview here.
He said the “question does’t arise of allying with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF)”, whose chief Badruddin Ajmal had earlier in an interview with IANS floated the idea of a Third Front with AGP chief Prafulla Kumar Mahanta as the chief ministerial candidate.
Gogoi, heading the Assam government since 2001, said he had “doubts about Ajmal’s credentials” because “there is every possibility” he might join hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after the results of the April 4 and 11 voting are out on May 19.
He alleged that the AIUDF had covertly supported the BJP by fielding its candidates in constituencies where its support base was “nil”.
“If there is an alliance, it must be on an honourable basis, and on certain principle. In Muslim constituencies, their support base is almost nil. Then what is the point of putting up candidates there, where there is no chance. Indirectly, they were going to help the BJP.”
He also ruled out the possibility of his predecessor Mahanta, who fought the polls in alliance with the BJP, emerging as the consensus chief ministerial candidate if no party gets a majority to form the new government.
“Do you think we are fools? Mahanta is not even our partner,” he said, rather angrily.
The 81-year-old Congress stalwart hinted that he was ready to return as the chief minister for the fourth term provided the party high command decided that. “If they give me any responsibility, I’ll take it up. For how long will I continue is a different matter….”
Asked if his former ministerial colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma’s turning to the BJP had cost the Congress dearly, Gogoi said: “The poll result will speak for itself.”
He said the Congress had lost the 2014 Lok Sabha election even as Biswas was one of the main campaigners for the party. “We’ll do much better compared to the Lok Sabha elections this time. His leaving has not affected the party at all.”
Gogoi alleged that the BJP-led central government was giving “step-motherly” treatment to the border state and had withdrawn the “Special Category status” given to Assam under which the state would get 90 percent grant from the central government for its budget.
“The BJP government has withdrawn the special status. Funds for the state have gone down. Whole of north-east is lagging behind, that’s why we want a Special Category status reinstated for Assam. If special assistance is not given to this region, it will always lag behind,” Gogoi said.
In a high turnout two-phased poll exercise, Assam voted on April 4 and 11 to elect members to the 126-seat assembly.
(Sidhartha Dutta can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)