Assam heralds New Year amid campaign

The beat of drums and the rhythm of the bamboo flute, accompanied by gyrating Bihu dancers, is reverberating in the hills and valleys of Assam as the state celebrates Rongali Bihu or the Assamese New Year Tuesday.

'Bihu is the time for rejoicing and merrymaking and let us all hope the New Year brings good luck and ushers in peace to the state,' Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi told IANS.

But Bihu this time round is being celebrated in a rather subdued manner with general elections round the corner - voting in the state takes place April 16 and 23.

'The celebrations are a little subdued this time, but no one can take away the sheen of the Bihu festivities from the Assamese people,' said Runimala Das, a young Bihu dancer who is preparing to perform on stage Tuesday night as part of a cultural show here.

But politicians are not too happy - they are unable to draw crowds to their election meetings.

'We are also celebrating Bihu and exchanging greetings and wishes among the people. No politics during Bihu,' said Robin Bordoloi, Congress party candidate for the Guwahati parliamentary seat.

Some of the candidates are taking this opportunity to mingle with Bihu revellers during community celebrations across the state.

'We saw candidates and other political leaders simply trying to take advantage of Bihu by attending community functions in the morning, although they refrained from making political speeches,' said Saran Deka, an organiser of a Bihu event here.