Assam polls 2016: Springing a surprise in Tarun Gogoi's Titabor seat won't be easy for BJP

Titabor, Jorhat, Assam: "Rains are good. They are considered as the blessings of God." These are the words of Kaliabor Lok Sabha MP and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's son Gaurav Gogoi, uttered just before the drizzle-turned-torrential at the Charaipani sluice gate in Titabor constituency where he was addressing a motley crowd during campaigning.

 Assam polls 2016: Springing a surprise in Tarun Gogois Titabor seat wont be easy for BJP

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. AFP

The shower was so heavy that the MP had to rush to the adjacent Shiva temple to protect himself. Those who convinced themselves to take off their shoes in the slush went inside the temple and listened to the lawmaker campaigning for his father — Tarun Gogoi. As of now, the only question is if the Congress will have to rush for divine intervention when the election results come out on 19 May.

There are no two opinions that Titabor, located in the state's Jorhat district and being the chief minister's seat for the last 15 years, will witness one of the most high-stake contest between the Congress and the BJP. To cash in on the 15-year-long anti-incumbency against the chief minister, the BJP has even roped in its Jorhat Lok Sabha MP Kamakhya Prasad Tasa.

The Titabor seat is made up of 19 panchayats — Rangajan, Chungi, Bebijan, Kasukhat, Turung, Charaipani, Birina Sayek, Melamati, Tengajan, Madhapur, Rajabahar, Ekorani, Borhulla, Kakodunga, Raidanjuri, Pub Thengal, Madhya Thengal, Pachim Thengal, Dakhi Thengal and Khongia — spreading over 41,609 hectares. The total number of voters is 1,24,628.

Although the nomination of Tasa may be termed as a masterstroke by the BJP, helping it make some inroads into this traditional Congress bastion of tea gardens with former Man Friday of Tarun Gogoi and now bete noire Himanta Biswa Sarma leading the charge for the Jorhat MP, the task at hand has hardly become easier.

Assam

"Titabor has always remained a Congress bastion and will always remain so no matter whoever BJP brings in here," said Biplab Gogoi, a local resident. Admitting that the BJP has gained some access to some of the secure Congress tea garden votes, Titabor Block Congress general secretary, Arup Saikia, said, "BJP did take away some of our voters but we are still comfortably placed here."

Bad weather did play spoilsport on Tuesday at Charaipani sluice gate where people were forced to scurry for cover, resulting in scattering of the crowd when Gaurav Gogoi was just about to start his speech. However, while on the move to the next stop at Tengajan Mandal, which saw a decent turnout despite the inclement climate, the Kaliabor MP refused to take Tasa as a threat to his father's 15-year-long domination in Titabor.

"Kamakhya Prasad Tasa is a young MP who had won the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But in the 2011 Assembly election, he lost by a handsome margin to Pradyut Bordoloi in Margherita. The present Titabor MLA, who is also the chief minister is a veteran experienced politician. He has steered the state from being insurgency-prone to peace, from being in a fiscally difficult position to an economically stable condition. In Titabor, the people have already made up their minds that they will vote only for the Congress party," Kaliabor MP Gaurav Gogoi told Firstpost.

The fighting has gone down to such bitter levels that none of the parties are sparing the other in Titabor as this has now become more of a prestige battle rather than a mere electoral contest. More than becoming a Tarun Gogoi versus Kamakhya Prasad Tasa battle, it has now taken the shape of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi versus Tarun Gogoi.

"The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) people have spread out in the entire state and are quietly campaigning for the BJP. The BJP is a communal party with people like Nathuram Godse, the killer of Mahatma Gandhi, becoming its inspiration. This is BJP's actual face," Gaurav Gogoi said in his public address in Tengajan.

Not bogged down by the might of a heavyweight like Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to wrest the prized seat out of the Congress kitty.

"We are not doing hard work just to defeat Tarun Gogoi. He got a great opportunity when he had won the last Assembly polls by over 70,000 votes. Whatever Tarun Gogoi did in the last 15 years, Tasa, who I am sure will become a minister in the state government, will do it in 15 months. There is a parivartan (change) tsunami in Titabor," said BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma during a campaign rally in Titabor's Jalukonibari.

The former Assam health and education minister also blamed Tarun Gogoi for irregularities in the Thengal Kachari Autonomous Council, which is headquartered in Titabor.

Upbeat over his victory in the last parliamentary elections in 2014, Tasa is gearing up fast for the battle royale ahead. At least, he is doing a good job in hiding his nervousness, if there is any.

"It was a bit of surprise for me to be nominated. But I have accepted the responsibility which the party has entrusted upon me. I have fought stalwarts before. The chief minister is not comfortable fighting the election against me," Tasa told Firstpost, indicating that big names do not scare him off.

Another interesting facet of this contest in Titabor is the alliance between the BJP and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) as the regional party is completely behind the national outfit. For Congress, the solace would be that in 2001, Tarun Gogoi had defeated his nearest rival Hemanta Kalita from the AGP by a huge margin of 45,250 votes. In 2006, Tarun Gogoi had defeated his nearest rival Kula Das by 42,501 votes. During the last Assembly election in 2011, Tarun Gogoi even bettered his winning margin as he demolished AGP's Montu Moni Dutta by a mammoth margin of 54,199.

Notwithstanding the tall claims that both the parties are daring each other to make, the whole math would become clear only when the gatherings at these campaign meetings actually turn into votes. With the community hall at Jalukonibari, where the BJP meeting had to be hurriedly shifted owing to incessant rains, the turnout between 2,000-3,000 people did give an impression of a BJP wave initially but a few overheard comments had cast a shadow on the actual picture.

"We can't wait for so long in this bad weather. The party has paid the fare for our trip and we need to return now," said a prospective BJP sympathizer to another as the light was soon giving away in the falling dusk.

It's now over to the gods to decide the destiny.

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Updated Date: May 18, 2016 20:27:18 IST