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Assam: Congress invites AUDF to join UPA

By K Anurag in Guwahati
May 16, 2009 11:15 IST
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The Congress has extended an invitation to the Assam United Democratic Front, led by perfume mogul Badaruddin Ajmal, to join the United Progressive Alliance, as the party leaves no option untried to achieve the magic number of 272.

The Congress has just fought a bitter electoral battle with the AUDF, which was branded communal by some party leaders during the poll campaign. But in the fluid post-poll scenario, the party has decided to invite the AUDF to join the UPA given that the AUDF is expected to win a couple of the state's 14 Lok Sabha seats.

Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has been resisting pressure from within his party to have a truck with the AUDF, which was formed by over a dozen minority political parties in 2006.

Gogoi believed that any alliance with the AUDF would lead to an erosion of the party's base among majority ethnic groups in the state and favoured the AUDF's merger with the Congress so that the party's Muslim vote bank remains intact.

During the last three years the AUDF has emerged as a force to reckon with in Assam which has sizeable Muslim voters. The AUDF had posed a stiff challenge to the Congress in its minority bastion during the 2006 assembly poll as well as in the just held parliamentary election.

With the party leadership getting soft towards the AUDF in the post election scenario, Gogoi too has stated that he won't stand in the way if the AUDF extended support to the Congress-led UPA in the formation of the next government.

"The AUDF is not a communal party and it will support only a secular government at the Centre," Ajmal told the media in Guwahati.

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K Anurag in Guwahati