Jhanji, Sivasagar, Assam: Surrounded by a boisterous crowd of tea garden workers and countless Congress members as the roadshow made a stop in front of the Borbam Tea Estate in Assam's Amguri Assembly constituency, Angkita Dutta, the Congress candidate from the seat enjoyed every moment of the political revelry on Friday. More so, as she was accompanied by two star campaigners — her father and Assam Congress chief Anjan Dutta and former Bollywood actor and party leader Raj Babbar.
Perhaps during that time not for a fleeting moment the thought of dynastic politics came to her mind, although the Congress list of candidates for Assam Assembly election this year witnesses quite a few generational changeover.
"We have encouraged the young generation. This time out of the 122 seats that we are fighting from, over 60 are from the younger generation. Only seven candidates who have received nominations are above 70 years. The Congress party has decided to project some new faces from the young generation," Assam Congress state president Anjan Dutta told Firstpost at Jhanji, in Assam's Sivasagar district.
"She is an elected Lok Sabha Youth Congress vice-president. Actually, the Jorhat Lok Sabha Youth Congress seat is reserved for Scheduled Castes. She won the highest number of votes but since the post of the president is reserved for SC, she became the vice-president. She has the experience of NSUI and Youth Congress politics," the state Congress head said. "Also she was the only applicant for candidature," Dutta added, justifying Angkita's nomination.
In its quest for new faces, the Congress party did some diligent 'family' searching. Apart from Angkita, state minister Gautam Roy's son Rahul is in the fray from Algapur Assembly segment. So is Dinesh Prasad Goala's son Rajdeep Goala from Lakhipur and Gobinda Chandra Langthasa's son Nirmal from Haflong constituency. If that is not enough, then we have Diganta, son of state Minister Bhumidhar Barman, fighting the polls from the Barkhetri Assembly seat. Rosalina Tirkey, daughter of Congress legislator from Sarupathar, Akilus Tirkey, is replacing her father as a candidate this time around. Klengdoon Engti, son of former parliamentarian Biren Sing Engti, is the Congress candidate from Bokajan.
Then there is another set of kin who will feature in this battle for the Assembly. Former Union minister Santosh Mohan Dev's wife Bithika Dev is jumping into the election fray from Silchar. Their daughter Sushmita Dev is already a Lok Sabha MP from Silchar. Septuagenarian legislator Membar Gogoi is making way for his daughter-in-law Pallabi Saikia Gogoi as a Congress candidate in the Teok Assembly constituency.
Next we have the 'power' couples. While Congress leader Ripun Bora won a Rajya Sabha seat from Assam last month, his wife Monika Bora got the Congress ticket from the Gohpur seat for the second time. In another similar example, while wife Ranee Narah won a Rajya Sabha seat in March, her husband Bharat Chandra Narah got the party nomination from Dhakuakhana Assembly seat.
"Have you seen the Congress list of candidates? It is all a family business starting from the top. It is not a democratic unit like the BJP," BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma told Firstpost while commenting on the Congress list of candidates.
But for Angkita, the Amguri ticket is not something she got on the platter by virtue of being the state Congress president's daughter, she maintains. Armed with a BA (Honours) in Political Science from Delhi University, a law degree from the Faculty of Law, Delhi University and a masters degree in women and gender studies from Ignou, Angkita is currently pursuing her doctoral research in the Department of Women’s Studies, Gauhati University. Given her family background, the 1987-born is certainly not a complete novice in politics. Her father to his credit has revived the Assam State Transport Corporation from literally out of the coffin when he served as the transport minister in Tarun Gogoi's first cabinet in 2001.
"In the 2011 Assembly Election itself, I was helping and campaigning for my father. After that and when he took charge as the president of Pradesh Congress, I started spending more time in the constituency. I was representing him in various work. I used to go to the voters and figure out if their work was being done, if there was any problem they were having or whether anything was incomplete. Whatever the feedback was, I would pass it on to the MLA and he would take it forward from there. For the last three years, I was communicating between the Amguri voters and the MLA," Angkita said.
"Since the party decided that he (Anjan Dutta) should focus on all the 126 seats and he is being projected as the star campaigner, he will not be able to give so much time. So because of that, senior leaders and my Youth Congress colleagues suggested that I should apply. That is how it all happened," she said.
Such is her confidence that Angkita isn't suffering the trouble of surviving in the shadow of her father's name and designation, something that Gaurav Gogoi struggled to shed initially, and come out of Tarun Gogoi's shadow to stand independently.
"On the contrary, I would like to mention here that for the past three years I have spent all my time in Amguri. I was never in Guwahati. People have seen me literally everyday in Amguri. I have done membership drives for the Congress. And I went door-to-door. During the municipality election in Amguri town, I have visited almost every household. So they have seen me working and most of them have seen me growing up as well since 1991. So for them I am not Anjan Dutta's daughter, I am their daughter. So I don't think I have any of those (dynastic) problems," Angkita told Firstpost.
It looks like another dawn begins at Assam Congress ahead of the poll battle.