Assam Congress jolted by minister’s arrest

June 4th, 2008 - 11:46 am ICT by IANS  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Guwahati, June 4 (IANS) The arrest of Assam education minister Ripun Bora by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while trying to bribe an official of the investigating agency has come as a rude jolt to the ruling Congress government in the state. Assam Chief minister Tarun Gogoi dropped Bora from the cabinet hours after his arrest in New Delhi Tuesday.

The news of Bora’s arrest came even as the Congress government was in celebration mode to mark the completion of two years in office.

“There is no question of protecting or defending someone as the law will take its own course. The chief minister did the right thing by dropping him from the cabinet and the issue will have no bearing on the government,” a senior Assam minister said, requesting not to be named.

Bora was arrested red handed while trying to give a bribe of Rs.1 million to a CBI official investigating the murder of political leader Daniel Topno in 2000. He was arrested under the Prevention of Corruption Act from a guest house in New Delhi.

Mukul Pathak, a Guwahati-based journalist of an Assamese language daily was also arrested along with Bora. The newspaper has since suspended him.

Ramesh Maheshwari, said to be a businessman, has also been detained by the CBI.

The CBI was investigating the 2000 murder of Daniel Topno, a Congress leader in northern Assam’s Gohpur town, and was probing whether Bora had any role in the assassination.

Although the Congress is trying to put up a brave front, the arrest of Bora would have serious political ramifications in the days ahead with the opposition getting a potent issue to harp on.

“The chief minister must resign immediately and set an example. The arrest of Bora is just the tip of the iceberg as the government in Assam is full of corrupt ministers,” said Ramen Deka, president of the Assam unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Congress leaders and legislators privately admit the arrest of Bora could have a negative impact on the government.

“Bora’s arrest was unprecedented in the history of Assam and the country’s politics as a whole. The image of the Congress party and the government in general would get a severe beating with the opposition getting an issue to criticise the government on,” a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.

As a damage control exercise, the Congress party is now contemplating expelling Bora from the party.

“The matter would be reviewed once the chief minister and the state Congress president Bhubaneswar Kalita return to Guwahati from New Delhi later Wednesday,” a Congress party leader said.

Already the opposition has burnt effigies of Bora in several parts of the state and has planned several programmes to denounce him Wednesday.

Bora is expected to be produced at the Patiala House courts in New Delhi later Wednesday.

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