Congress sitting MP and All India Mahila Congress chairperson Sushmita Deb Image Credit: aajtak.intoday.in

Congress, which has owned the Silchar Lok Sabha constituency seven times during the period from 1977 to 2014, is likely to face tough challenge this time from ruling BJP.

Third generation Congressman and former union minister Santosh Mohan Dev represented the constituency five times in the years 1980, 1985, 1996, 1999 and 2004.

The prestigious Lok Sabha constituency in Barak Valley of South Assam has always been represented by high-profile leaders, including three Union Ministers.

In 1977, Rashida Haque Choudhury of the Congress emerged as the winner. Wife of legendary Congress leader Moinul Haque Choudhury, Rashida Haque was the Union Minister of State for Education, Social Welfare and Culture in the Charan Singh-led government.

Santosh Mohan Dev, son of a veteran Congress leader first registered victory in the mid-term Lok Sabha election in 1980 from Silchar. After winning the election in 1980, Santosh Mohan Dev went on to demonstrate a rather astounding leadership stint in Silchar.

He represented the constituency five times in the years 1980, 1985, 1996, 1999 and 2004. Between 1989 and 1996, he represented the West Tripura constituency as MP. His father, Satindra Mohan Dev, was one of the first legislators of independent India and his grandfather, Kali Mohan Dev, was an active member of the Indian freedom struggle.

A prolific leader not only in Silchar’s political arena but on a national level as well, Santosh Mohan Dev was the Union Minister of State for Tourism and Communications during 1986-1988 and the Union Minister of State for Home affairs during 1988-1989.

Santosh Mohan Dev also held the charge of Union Minister of state for steel (independent charge) in 1991 other than holding a number of other positions in the central government. He was a catalyst for several development projects in his hometown, Silchar, including the Assam University.

During his tenure as the minister of heavy industry and public enterprises in the union cabinet in the period 2005 to 2009, Dev played a key role in the formation of a comprehensive automotive policy.

Santosh Mohan Dev’s youngest daughter, Sushmita is the sitting MP from Silchar Lok Sabha constituency, and is also the president of the All India Mahila Congress.

However, the situation appeared to have changed in the Hindu Bengali dominated constituency this time after BJP government bringing in the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in the parliament.

The Bill, which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, was opposed by the Congress and the stance of the party on the Bill has not gone down well in the constituency.

Majority of the Hindu Bengali voters in Barak valley extended support to the Bill and they are upset with the Congress party’s stance on it.

During this period, the saffron party bagged the seats only three times in 1991, 1999 and 2009.

Kabindra Purkayastha of the BJP is another high-profile leader who represented the Silchar constituency. He served as minister of state for communication in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government from 1998 to 1999.

Purkayastha was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1991 from Silchar. He was re-elected to the Lok Sabha in 1998 and 2009.

In 2009, he was elected to the 15th Lok Sabha, defeating heavyweight candidates Santosh Mohan Dev of Indian National Congress and Badruddin Ajmal of AIUDF from Silchar. In 2014, however, Purkayastha was defeated by Sushmita Dev of the Congress, despite the Modi-wave in his favour.

This time while BJP has fielded Rajdep Roy, Congress has nominated sitting MP and All India Mahila Congress chairperson Sushmita Deb for the constituency.

Silchar constituency at a glance:

Total No. of voters:  11,93,908

No of male voters: 6, 13, 236

No. of female voters: 5, 76, 353

No. of polling stations: 1461

No. of very hyper-sensitive stations: 20

Sangeeta Das

Sangeeta Das is a Copy Editor of Northeast Now. She can be reached at: rising.eagle245@gmail.com

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