Ghatowar is the president of Assam Chah Mazdoor Sangha, the largest tea workers’ union in the state, affiliated with the trade wing of the Congress, the National Congress of Indian Trade Unions. He has been instrumental in mobilizing Tea Garden votes for Congress for decades.
Insiders from the state Congress unit say Ghatowar’s representation in the Upper House will fill the void in the party, which has no MPs from the Tea Tribes of Assam – a deciding factor in the elections of state. “There is no Congressional Tea Garden Representative in the Lok Sabha or the State Assembly. It is therefore important to send a strong leader to Parliament from the Tea Belt, which was once the stronghold of the big old party,” a Congress source said. He added that the name of another former MP, Dwijen Sarma, has also been put forward.
However, much will depend on the meeting of the Legislative Party of the Congress, which is scheduled for Sunday to discuss whether it would approach Badruddin Ajmal’s India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) to reach consensus on an opposition candidate. The state Congress had severed ties with the AIUDF following the assembly election debacle last year.
State Congress leader Bhupen Kumar Borah told TOI that party leader Debabrata Saikia will be given the responsibility of uniting the opposition to field a candidate against the BJP-led alliance. “Anti-BJP MPs have the strength in the assembly to send a member from Assam to the Rajya Sabha in the election for the two seats, which will soon become vacant as the terms of Congress MPs Ripun Bora and Ranee Narah come to an end. ,” he said.
The Congress has 27 state assembly deputies, including Sherman Ali Ahmed and Sashikanta Das, who have been suspended from the party. “The suspension rule states that the two legislators shall follow the party whip in voting in the Rajya Sabha elections,” Borah said. The fate of the opposition candidate will also depend on the vote of independent MP Akhil Gogoi and sole CPM lawmaker Manoranjan Talukdar.
AIUDF spokesman Aminul Islam said they were ready to unite opposition MPs, but regretted that Congress had not been proactive.