Former YSR secretary is Cong candidate in Assam

Last Updated 24 March 2019, 02:46 IST

The violent anti-foreigners movement had just concluded in 1985 when M G V K Bhanu shifted from Andhra Pradesh and joined as a young IAS officer in Assam.

In his 33-year-long career as a government servant, Bhanu, who also served as secretary of former Andhra Pradesh chief minister YSR Reddy (on deputation in 2004), has seen how strong anti-outsider sentiments played a key role in every election in Assam.

In the ensuing Lok Sabha elections, the retired IAS officer, however, is himself feeling the same heat as the Congress candidate in the prestigious Tezpur constituency in eastern Assam. Bhanu joined the Congress in February, seven months after he retired as the state’s additional chief secretary.

“I could have gone back to Andhra Pradesh and live a relaxed life there. But decided to stay back, because I love Assam and people here also love me,” Bhanu said, soon after joining the Congress here.

He hails from Navabupalem in West Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh.

Bhanu is facing a straight fight against Assam’s labour minister and young BJP leader Pallab Lochan Das, who belongs to a tea tribe community. The constituency, which remained a Congress stronghold till 2009, has a sizeable number of tea garden voters (about 15%).

“Pallab is our local candidate but Bhanu is salani maach (imported fish) from Andhra Pradesh. He can’t win,” Joseph Lakra, a local BJP leader told DH, making it clear that the saffron party is going to harp on the “outsider” tag against Bhanu in the campaign for April 11 elections. Sensing BJP’s charge of an “outsider,” Bhanu has started invoking Jyoti Prasad Agarwala, the father of modern Assamese culture, who lived in Tezpur and whose forefathers hailed from Marwar in Rajasthan.

“Jyoti Prasad was a great man. He is worshipped here. I want to follow the path he has shown. People of Assam has accepted and loved those who have worked for them,” Bhanu said in a video posted on his social media page.

Bhanu’s supporters in Tezpur, however, said his performance as deputy commissioner in Sonitpur (Tezpur district headquarters) in 1996, works for the tea garden workers as chairman of Tea Board of India (2011-2013) and as additional chief secretary in panchayat and rural development department are sufficient to beat the “outsider” tag.

Bhanu’s supporters are also banking on nearly 35% Nepali and Gorkha voters in Tezpur, who had voted for sitting MP Ram Prasad Sarmah (BJP) in 2014 but are unhappy after he was replaced by Das in this election. The arrest of Sarmah’s daughter last year has also affected the image of BJP and Sarmah in Tezpur.

(Published 24 March 2019, 02:46 IST)

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