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Two Congress MLAs including former minister joins BJP in Assam

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Guwahati, Dec 29: In a major shot in the arm for the ruling BJP, ahead of next year’s assembly polls, three senior leaders including a former Congress minister joined the saffron party on Tuesday.

With just months away from the assembly elections in Assam, former Assam PWD Minister and Congress MLA from Golaghat Ajanta Neog, Congress legislator from Lakhipur Rajdeep Gowala and senior Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) Bolendra Mushahary joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in presence of its state President Ranjeet Kumar Dass and senior Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Both Neog and Gowala are sitting MLAs of the Congress and Mushahary is a former MLA of BPF, an ally of the ruling BJP since 2016. Gowala was also the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee in the Assam assembly.

With the exit of the two Congress MLAs and the death of former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and Pranab Gogoi, both Congress legislators, the strength of the Congress party in the Assam assembly has been reduced to just 20 members.

Earlier, Congress leaders Neog and Gowala met Union Home Minister and senior BJP leader Amit Shah during his two-day visit to Guwahati on Saturday and Sunday.

A day earlier, on Friday, Congress President Sonia Gandhi expelled Neog from the party for allegedly indulging in anti-party activities.

Political observers believe that the joining of these two senior Congress leaders could turn out to be a major setback for the Congress in Assam ahead of the assembly polls, scheduled to be held in April-May next year.

After joining BJP at the saffron party office, Neog described her former party-the Congress as a “leaderless and directionless organization that works as a “private limited party”.

She also condemned the Party’s association with All Indian United Democratic Front (AIUDF), a Muslim dominated party in Assam.

Praising the political finesse of the two new BJP members, BJP leader and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is also the convener of the BJP-led anti-Congress alliance, North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), said Assam’s two famous and skilled politicians have joined BJP and “we warmly welcome them. From now on, we expect that they would keep in mind the party’s welfare, and be driven to work for the people.”

The prospects of the ruling BJP has been further bolstered with results in the recent elections to the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) and the Tiwa Autonomous Council (TAC) in Assam.

The BJP swept the recent polls to the 36-member TAC by winning 33 seats while in the elections to the 40-member BTC, BJP formed the council in alliance with two other new allies — United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) and Gana Suraksha Parishad (GSP).

After the outcome of the BTC polls, the BJP dumped its erstwhile ally the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), and announced support to its new allies UPPL and GSP to take power in the politically significant autonomous body.

The BJP in the December 7 and 10 BTC polls fought against the BPF despite ruling Assam together since 2016 along with the AGP.

In the 40-member BTC polls, BPF became the single largest party by winning 17 seats while the UPPL bagged 12 seats, BJP 9, and the GSP and Congress one seat each.

The BJP had wrested power from the Congress in Assam in 2016 by becoming the single largest party with 60 MLAs in the 126-member Assembly and formed an alliance with the BPF and the Asom Gana Parishad, which won 14 and 12 seats, respectively. The ruling alliance also has the support of an Independent MLA in the current term.

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