Queen Oja versus Bobbeeta Sharma. One is a veteran AGP leader who switched to the BJP not too long ago. The other is a well-known TV personality who had once won a beauty contest in Assam. The two women representing the BJP and Congress have brought the zing back to the contest for the prestigious Gauhati Lok Sabha seat in this election. So much so that it is being billed as the fight between the “queen” and the “beauty queen”.
Gauhati—the parliamentary seat retains the old spelling—is the biggest among the 14 Lok Sabha constituencies in Assam and straddles 10 assembly seats. The constituency goes to the polls on April 23, the last day of the three-phase voting in the state.
But there is much more to the two candidates than just the obvious—they are also showing that mutual respect can go side by side with fierce political rivalry.
“I will not say anything against Bobbeeta Sharma...” said Oja, 67. On her part, Sharma said she considers Oja to be “like my mother”.
Oja, however, minces no words as she targets the rival party, the Congress.
“...I think the Congress party has already been shattered. They are into many divisions now. So, I think they are not in a position to win the battle. I’m quite comfortable to win here in Guwahati,” said a confident Oja after filing her nomination on April 1. She was accompanied by the chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal and BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav besides a large number of supporters.
Oja though faced flak for allegedly putting false information in her nomination affidavit and was forced to change it. Oja had stated her educational qualification as higher secondary pass from the state-run Krishna Kanta Handiqui State Open University but the university authorities said it doesn’t offer such course. Oja said that it happened due to some mistakes.
“After having come back from election campaign I found some inadvertent mistakes in the affidavit... I have prepared one more affidavit in the afternoon with actual facts. But at the time of filling nomination papers, my proposed election agent annexed the incorrect affidavit,” Oja said.
“Many have made fun of my educational qualifications. But let me tell you, you don’t need a doctorate degree to serve the people. I’ve passed class 12 and I don’t mind saying that. People know me and my family. I have been working for the welfare of the people,” said Oja, who had earlier served as the mayor of Guwahati Municipal Corporation.
Bobbeeta Sharma, 52, however, feels that anti-incumbency would help the Congress to wrest the seat from the BJP, which ended the Congress’ 15-year reign in Assam in 2016. “People of Guwahati have seen what the BJP has done over the years. So, the people know what is best for them. I’m overwhelmed by the response of the people,” she added. She said that the BJP didn’t bring the Women’s Reservation Bill but almost passed the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which had triggered violent protests across Assam.
Since 1951, the Congress has held the Gauhati seat six times while the BJP won it three times.
Apart from Oja and Sharma, there is another woman—Junmoni Devi Khaund—in the fray. She is contesting as an independent candidate.