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ASSAM

For a while, Ajmal scent of success had Gogoi gasping

Friday 12 May 2006, by KASHYAP*Samudra Gupta

GUWAHATI, May 11 : A week before the elections, veteran Congressman and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had said, ??I don’t give a damn to Badruddin Ajmal. I can even cause a split in his AUDF.’’

As Assam counted its votes today, perfume trader Badruddin Ajmal’s six-month-old Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF)-considered a reincarnation of the United Minorities Front (UMF) of 1985-brought the Congress’s tally down from 71 to 53 seats, 11 seats short of the magic mark.

Had it not for the pre-poll alliance Gogoi stitched up with the Hagrama Mohilari faction of the Bodo People’s Progressive Front (BPPF), Gogoi would have been mourning his loss now. The BPPF’s tally of 11 brings Gogoi’s Congress to the halfway mark.

Gogoi himself has won from Titabor quite comfortably (the AGP had not fielded any candidate against him and had instead left it to the CPI which fared miserably), but could not stop Ajmal’s AUDF from not just slicing away a sizeable chunk of Congress votes in several constituencies, but also from taking away as many as seven seats that the ruling party had won last time. Seven out of the 10 seats that the fledgling AUDF won, it snatched away from the Congress. Its presence, however, ensured the defeat of the Congress in several other seats.

??But whatever be the result, it is the Congress that is going to form the government, and for that we have the valuable support of the Hagrama faction of BPPF,’’ claimed chief minister Gogoi beaming with his usual smile. The question of whether the party would require replacing Gogoi as chief minister has also been laid to rest. While detractors of the Chief Minister within the party-most of them victims of the downsizing of the Cabinet that took place two years ago-had projected leaders like PCC chief Bhubaneswar Kalita and former finance and law minister Devananda Konwar as likely alternatives, both have lost, much to the relief of Gogoi. Ajmal, 48, from Donkigaon village in Assam, runs the Ajmal Group of Companies whose core business is traditional perfumes sold over 500 retail shops in Africa, the Middleast, East Europe and South-east Asia.

He jumped into the political arena in August following the Congress’s failure to stop the controversial Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act from being scrapped.

Muslims-migrant Muslims from Bangladesh-are in a majority in at least 20 of Assam’s 126 Assembly constituencies, while they are a deciding factor in another 20. The poll plank of the the AUDF was that the minorities have been exposed to harassment in the name of detection and deportation of Bangladeshi infiltrators following the scrapping of the IMDT Act. ??The Congress has failed to protect the interests of the minorities,’’ the AUDF chief who got the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid to campaign for the party had said.

A fazil from Darul Uloom, Deoband, who sells perfumes with the catchline, ?The Scent of Success’, hoped to be the kingmaker if the both fronts fell short of a simple majority. He almost reached there-and in just about six months.

samudra.gupta.kashyap@expressindia.com

See online : The Indian Express

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