AGP push for unity bid, Mahanta back in limelight

April 12th, 2008 - 10:13 am ICT by admin  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Guwahati, April 12 (IANS) Assam’s beleaguered opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is making a desperate attempt for revival with possibilities being explored for reuniting the party after the vertical split three years ago. The AGP, currently in shambles, has constituted an 11-member committee to submit a detailed report within two months on how best to get disgruntled party leaders back to its fold.

The decision to form the committee was taken following mounting pressure from grassroots level party workers seeking unification of the party.

The AGP split in 2005 when the party unceremoniously expelled its founder president and two-time chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta for ‘anti-party’ activities. Mahanta was earlier replaced as party president in 2001 on an alleged bigamy charge. He then formed a breakaway party called the AGP-Progressive (AGP-P).

There was pressure on the AGP leadership for unification with the party routed in the last two assembly elections and more recently in the panchayat elections in December at the hands of the ruling Congress party.

While a section of the AGP top leadership is in favour of taking Mahanta back into the party, some influential members, including party president Brindaban Goswami, are opposing the move tooth and nail.

“The AGP is prepared to accept any political challenge alone although we must respect the wishes of the grassroots workers who want the regional forces to be strengthened,” Goswami said, clearly indicating his reluctance to take Mahanta back.

Several top AGP leaders have openly voiced their anger in party forums and admitted to being totally disillusioned with the handling of party affairs by its present leader.

The breakaway AGP faction has hailed the move for unification.

“It is time for the party to unite if regionalism is to survive. All the regional forces must come under one umbrella,” Hemanta Kalita, a leader of the AGP-P, told IANS.

Mahanta, once the toast of Assam for spearheading the anti-foreigners uprising in the 1980s as a student leader, is a loner - completely isolated from politics after being mired in a blazing row over ’secret killings’ of relatives of separatists.

The ’secret killings’, as they came to be known, became a major issue during the assembly poll in 2001 in which the Congress party led by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi returned to power, defeating the AGP. The former chief minister was indicted in the Justice K.N. Saikia Commission report that was tabled in the Assam assembly.

The Commission, investigating the extra-judicial killings of nearly 45 family members and relatives of militants belonging to the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), said such incidents could not have happened without the state home minister’s knowledge.

Mahanta was then chief minister and also holding the home portfolio.

The present Congress-led Assam government has already threatened to take action against Mahanta by constituting a legal expert team.

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