Assam parties launch poll campaign with rallies



Guwahati: The ruling Congress party and Assam's main opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) Saturday traded charges of corruption, marking the formal launch of electioneering for the state assembly elections expected in March-April.

The AGP Saturday held a public rally in Guwahati and pledged to halt the Congress juggernaut from making an electoral hat-trick in Assam.

"We cannot allow the Congress to come back to power and to ensure their defeat we need to work as a team with lot of conviction and in a focused way," said AGP president Chandra Mohan Patowary.

The AGP rally was attended by an estimated 10,000 people with almost all the top leadership participating.

"Corruption has been the hallmark of the Congress government during the past nine-and-half years and unless we defeat them the future of Assam looks indeed bleak," Patowary said.

Former chief minister and senior AGP leader Prafulla Kumar Mahanta was more vocal in his attack saying the Congress party in Assam has become synonymous with corruption.

"Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and his cabinet colleagues are all involved in blatant corruption with the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) indicting the Assam government of misappropriating funds to the tune of millions of rupees," Mahanta said.

The Congress party too held a massive public rally at Nalbari, the home town of the AGP president, and launched a blistering attack on the opposition.

"The AGP during its two terms (1985-1989 and 1996-2001) did nothing for the people of Assam and their highpoint was the infamous saga of secret killings in the state," health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma told the rally.

More than 50 family members of ULFA leaders were killed during the tenure of the AGP - most of them picked up by masked gunmen and killed. The killings were popularly referred to as secret killings.

The general feeling was that the assassinations were masterminded by the AGP government, although several enquiry commissions failed to come up with a justifiable explanation as to who ordered the killings.

"The then chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has simply no moral right to criticise the Congress party as during his regime the state saw the darkest chapter of secret killings and he himself was embroiled in the Rs 400 crore veterinary scam," Bhumidhar Barman, revenue minister and senior Congress leader, said.

"In fact, the CBI named Mahanta in the charge sheet but the then governor refused permission for his prosecution."

The tone and tenor of the two rallies is a pointer that Assam would witness a high voltage verbal battle as election dates draw near.

IANS