Handique faces hurdle of unkept promises

JORHAT: He is the only Union minister from Assam and plays a very important role during every election. His experience as a leading politician from the state is vast. Being a Tai Ahom himself, he commands immense respect among people of the community who comprise a major chunk of the population in Jorhat and Sivasagar districts an advantage which will surely help him in leading Congress's election chariot this time too.

But the 2011 assembly elections may be a tough one for Handique, a close confidant of chief minister Tarun Gogoi, as the popularity of the Union minister is low in many parts of upper Assam due to the anti-incumbency factor.

A Congress leader said Handique will address party rallies in all ten assembly segments Jorhat, Titabor, Teok, Mariani, Sivasagar, Amguri, Mahmora, Thaora, Sonari and Nazira under the former's parliamentary constituency. But the influence of the Union minister seems to have diminished in some areas due to his unkept promises.

Aasu's Sivasagar unit president Pranab Chetia said, "In Sivasagar, the DoNER minister is not an influential person any longer because he hasn't done anything remarkable in the six LACs of Sivasagar, Mahmora, Sonari, Thaora, Amguri and Nazira which fall under Handique's parliamentary constituency. Besides, there is strong resentment among people of the constituencies bordering Sonari, Amguri and Nazira for the minister's failure to raise the demand for a solution to border disputes in Parliament."

He added that although the problem has taken a serious turn, Handique was just a mute spectator for which his popularity has waned to a large extent. "We think the minister will not play an important role in the coming polls," he said.

Tileswar Bordoloi, a freedom fighter from Jorhat, said, "Handique has failed to live up to his promises. During his tenure, he has not undertaken any remarkable project in his constituency which has eroded his support base." He added that the minister's pledge of constructing a mega water supply project in Jorhat, nationalization of the Tocklai Research Association and a bird sanctuary in Jorhat are yet to see the light of the day. He said the Union minister, who was junior to him in school, was yet to pay the full money meant for constructing the Mukti Jugaru Sanmilan Bhawan. "Handique had assured us to pay Rs 6.5 lakh for the construction of Mukti Jugaru Sanmilan Bhawan. But he has given only Rs 1.5 lakh so far," he added.

Talking to TOI recently, the Union minister had said, "The DoNER ministry has sanctioned funds for the Jorhat water supply project which will start soon. I have also written a letter to the Union commerce minister to take necessary steps on the nationalization of the Tocklai research institute."

Despite all shortcomings, Handique is still expected to play a pivotal role in the 10 assembly segments of Jorhat parliamentary constituency. "As a senior Congress leader, Handique is very popular among voters. He will play a key role in favour of Congress in the coming elections because of his influence on the electorate of Jorhat," said a Congress worker.

Handique started his political carrier as a member of Assam assembly in 1972. He was also the member of Rajya Sabha in 1980. Thereafter, he represented the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991 for the first time. He won the Jorhat Lok Sabha seat for the sixth consecutive term in 2009 and went on to become the cabinet minister of mines and DoNER. However, in January this year, he was dropped from the ministry of mines.