A constituency known for its sweet peda is gearing up for a bitter battle between sitting MLA and Independent candidate Jiten Gogoi and veteran AGP leader Atul Bora — both of whom face the challenge of keeping voters’ hopes afloat amid perennial threats of flood and erosion.
As one travels through National Highway 37 that connects the eastern and western ends of Assam, midway is the semi-urban Bokakhat, famous for its peda, manicured tea gardens and of course, the Kaziranga National Park.
While the three icons should have meant good business opportunities and tourism potential, Bokakhat is busier fighting the lapping waters of the Brahmaputra.
Floods have bothered Bokakhat since the Ahom era when wet earth (boka in Assamese) was brought from Moriahola on the bank of the Brahmaputra to build a farm (khat).
Flood and erosion continue to be one of the major issues in Bokakhat — one of the four constituencies of Golaghat district — with the red river feeding on vast stretches of land every year.
No wonder the pre-poll slandering also centres around this pressing issue.
Veteran AGP leader and the party’s candidate for Bokakhat, Atul Bora, blamed Jiten Gogoi’s misrule for the people’s woes.
“He has done nothing for the flood victims. A large number of people still stay in makeshift houses on the bank of the river and no land pattas were issued to people who have shifted and re-settled in new areas,” he said.
Gearing up for a hattrick, Gogoi, however, oozes confidence.
“I have done so much for Bokakhat in my last two terms that there is no doubt who the people will vote for,” he said.
Congress candidate Arun Phukon also admits that flood and erosion are issues that need to be addressed immediately. “I am a victim of flood and erosion myself. No one can understand the problems of these people better than I,” said Phukon.
Originally from Jugonia village on the bank of the Brahmaptura, Phukon’s family was displaced by the river in 1982. They resettled in Kalyanpur, near Bokakhat town.
The BJP, on the other hand, has chosen to stick to another favourite topic in Bokakhat — the Kaziranga National Park.
“There is tremendous scope for tourism in Bokakhat, especially with Kaziranga. We are hence planning to stress on developing eco-tourism in areas near the national park,” said Debo Pratim Bora, the BJP candidate.
Amid the tall promises, the tough nut to crack would be the disillusioned tea community, which comprises 30,000 voters in the constituency.
Bokakhat, which has 20 gardens, also boasts of the “best maintained” tea estate in the region — with Behora estate being known as the Rolls Royce in the tea circle.
Known to have a soft corner for the Congress, tea voters are, however, a “confused lot” this time, with Biru Chetri, a former president of the Bokakhat unit of the Assam Tea Tribes Students Association, filing his nomination on a Trinamul Congress ticket.
The tea community students’ organisation has banned the entry of all candidates and parties into the tea gardens for campaigning, barring Chetri.
Source:The Telegraph,March 28,2011