Guwahati/New Delhi: For the first time in Assam, there will be no leader of opposition in the 126-member Assembly with no party having the minimum required number of legislators, officials said on Saturday, a day after the Congress pulled off an emphatic victory, leaving rivals to play the blame game.
"Leader of the opposition can be chosen only if that party has a minimum of 21 legislators. In the present Assembly, the Congress won 78 seats and all other parties have won less than 21 seats," said Gouranga Das, secretary of the Assam Assembly.
"This would be the first time when an Assembly session would begin without any leader of the opposition," he said.
Assam`s two main opposition parties - Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - are still in a state of shock after the humiliating defeat, with some blaming the leadership and others continuing to find fault with Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) for their rout.
The Congress won 78 of the 126 Assembly seats, while its ally, the Bodoland People`s Front (BPF) won 12 seats.
AGP just managed to touch the double digit mark, winning 10 seats, 14 less than what it secured in the 2006 assembly elections.
The BJP also failed miserably - just five seats this time compared to 10 in 2006.
The surprise element was the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF), led by perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal that won 18 seats - the party won just 10 seats in 2006.
"Now the legislators of the respective opposition parties would be allotted their seats and there would be no space for a leader of opposition," Das said.
In New Delhi, former Lok Sabha secretary general Subash C. Kashyap said parliament and assemblies have their own rules concerning the designation of Leader of Opposition, which entitles the person to the rank of a cabinet minister.
"It depends on the rules. Each assembly is free to decided its rules of procedure," Kashap told a news agency.
"If the strength of the largest political party in an assembly is less than that prescribed for a recognised leader of opposition, the speaker can still give the designation subject to the rules of the Assembly," he said.
Kashyap said if there is no recognised leader of opposition, then there would be leaders of opposition of different political parties. He said an assembly can change its rules concerning appointment of leader of opposition.
In the outgoing Assam Assembly, the AGP with 24 seats was the main opposition with Prafulla Kumar Mahanta being the leader of opposition.
"We surely misread the pulse and mind of the people of Assam and hence this humiliating defeat," AGP working president Phani Bhushan Choudhury said.
Choudhury won the Bongaigaon seat for the six straight term, but announced his decision not to contest in future elections after the dismal performance of the regional party.
But surprisingly enough, AGP stalwarts like two-time chief minister Mahanta and party president Chandra Mohan Patowary blamed the defeat on manipulation of EVMs by the government machinery at the behest of the ruling Congress.
"How can there be such a result when the whole of Assam was talking of a change in government? We believe something must have been done, the EVMs must have been manipulated," Mahanta said.
Patowary also lost the polls to the Congress. Similar views were echoed by him as well.
But some within the party have sought change in the leadership and a total revamp to salvage the AGP that is out power since 2001.
"There should be serious introspection and may be we need to think about the leadership issue as well," Utpal Dutta, a senior AGP leader who was among the 10 AGP candidates.
BJP too is unwilling to accept the rout.
"The Congress won with votes from Bangladeshi Muslims and they always go into any election with an advantage due to them," BJP MP Bijoya Chakravorty said.
But amid the gloom in the opposition camp, celebrations continued in Assam with jubilant Congress leaders and supporters taking out victory processions.
"This is a democracy and people should learn to respect the verdict of the people. It is a shame for the opposition to look for excuses and blame EVMs and other such things for their defeat," said Himanta Biswa Sarma, health minister in the outgoing cabinet who won this election by 78,000 votes.