Manmohan in fray for Assam Rajya Sabha polls

Guwahati, May 29 (IANS) The ruling Congress party in Assam has issued a whip to ensure the presence of its legislators for the crucial Rajya Sabha polls Thursday, which see Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the fray.

Amidst reports of dissidence and infighting, the party Wednesday issued the three-line whip to ensure 100 percent turnout of party legislators in the assembly and also asked its ally Bodoland Peoples' Front (BPF) to ensure presence of its members for the polls for the two Rajya Sabha seats from Assam.

There are three candidates in the fray, the prime minister, Congress leader Santiuse Kujur and Aminul Islam of the All India United Democratic Front.

However, both the seats are likely to be won by the Congress considering the party strength in the state assembly. While there are 79 MLAs of the Congress in the state assembly, its ally, the BPF has 12 legislators.

The AIUDF has only 18 MLAs in the present assembly. The Bharatiya Janata Party and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) have five and nine seats, respectively, in the assembly -- but both parties have decided to abstain from voting.

A senior Congress legislator said the party has drawn up its strategy to win both Rajya Sabha seats. As part of the existing strategy, 49 MLAs will vote for Manmohan Singh and another 45 will vote for Santiuse Kujur.

After issuing the three-line whip, the party legislators must cast their votes and they also have to show their ballots to the party polling agents.

The party has also appointed two polling agents to observe the voting -- Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain and parliamentary secretary for home department Bhupen Bora.

While Hussain will observe the ballots for the party's first candidate Manmohan Singh, Bora will observe the ballots cast for the party's second candidate Santiuse Kujur.

However, the party needs only 38 votes each to win the two seats after the decision by the AGP and BJP to abstain from voting.

The party Wednesday held an urgent meeting where all the legislators of the Congress party and its ally the BPF participated. A mock-poll was also held after the meeting to make the legislators aware about the voting procedure.

"We are going to win both the seats," said senior Congress leader and state Agriculture Minister Nilamoni Sen Deka as he emerged from the meeting.

"Apart from the 79 Congress MLAs and 12 BPF legislators, three independent legislators will also vote for our candidates," Deka said adding that there is no chance that any one will abstain from voting.

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