Kurmi resignation puts ‘beleaguered Cong’ in a tight spot in Upper Assam

His resignation also means that Congress is now left with just three incumbent MLAs in Upper Assam.

Amid the declining Congress authority in Upper Assam, once a strong bastion of the grand old party, the resignation of four-time party MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi and the lone representative of the tea garden community in the state, Rupjyoti Kurmi, is undoubtedly a “big blow” to the “beleaguered” party.

A miffed Kurmi had alleged that young leaders allegedly had no place in the party.

“The Congress has been adversely affected because of its wrong policies and decisions ahead of the polls. Despite my eligibility, the party leadership did not accord due recognition or consider me eligible for important posts, as apparently they were reserved for seniors only,” the 45-year-old alleged after quitting from the party.

By their own admission, senior Congress leaders such as state party president Ripun Bora and Leader of the Opposition in Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia have confessed to the loss and, more importantly, the damage it might cause to the party.

Though, immediately after the 45-year-old ‘vocal’ leader submitted his resignation, a three-member committee led by veteran Congressman from Jorhat, Rana Goswami, was dispatched by the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee to Mariani, the constituency represented by Kurmi, apparently for a “damage control” exercise, with meetings and interactions lined up with the grassroots level party workers.

“As a young leader, Kurmi enjoys popularity among the younger generation in the Upper Assam region. So his exit will certainly affect the party. But Congress has seen big leaders quit the party. Despite setbacks, the party found ways to come back and make its presence felt. But, like what our leaders have said, there is a need for introspection in party as to why such a move out of discontentment could have taken place. There is a need to take decisions in sync with time and young, eligible leaders deserve their due,” Rajkumar Nilanetra Neog, who contested from Dibrugarh on a Congress ticket in the recent Assembly polls, told this correspondent on Wednesday.

Kurmi has a legacy as well. His mother, Rupam Kurmi, who represented Mariani for three terms on the trot, passed away while serving as a Congress minister.

His resignation also means that Congress is now left with just three incumbent MLAs in Upper Assam (South bank), Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah (Titabor); Debabrata Saikia (Nazira) and Sushanta Borgohain (Thowra).

The other Congress MLA in the region is veteran party leader, Bharat Chandra Narah from Nowboicha in the north bank.

Suresh Varma, a veteran political analyst from Dibrugarh, says the signs are ominous for the Congress which had enjoyed its day in the sun in Upper Assam before dissidence rocked the camp.

“The resignation of the lone Congress MLA from the tea community, which is dominant in as many as 40 to 42 constituencies in Assam, could be a telling factor. As it is, we get the impression that the close confidantes of former Congressman and now chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma are returning to his camp, even if it is the BJP,” Verma said.

There is a murmur that “a few more” might be going the Kurmi way.

“The damage was evident when veteran Congress MLA from Golaghat and former minister Ajanta Neog had quit the party in December last year just before the polls. Now, we have information that more, including incumbent MLAs, from both Upper and lower Assam, might be joining BJP. It could well be a situation where the ruling party might have the majority seats in the 126-member House,” the analyst said.

Varma recalled that the diminishing Congress base in tea garden territory was evident back in the 2016 Assembly polls, 2019 parliamentary polls and now in the 2021 Assembly elections.

“There are reasons as the BJP gave them what they wanted in the form of some sops and basic needs including wage increments, even if they were not in accordance to what was demanded. The infighting in the Congress camp, evident over the years, too did not help,” he said.

(Edited by Christopher Gatphoh)

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