‘Misdeeds’ of the past have apparently spoiled the Asom Gana Parishad’s chances of staging a comeback this election.
Routed in 2001 by Tarun Gogoi’s Congress, the AGP fared better in 2006. But infighting, lack of cohesion and leadership tussle plagued it. Party president Chandra Mohan Patowary did reunite the factions in October 2008 and rescue CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta from being a backbencher.
The reunification coincided with a series of alleged scams, primarily a Rs1000 crore tribal council scam. The AGP went gung-ho against the ‘Congress brand of corruption’ but Verdict 2001 showed it did not convince the people.
Moreover, the post-reunification confidence made the AGP sever its poll pact with the BJP last year. But uncertainties crept in, and party leaders began talking of a grand alliance of all non-Congress parties that would have BJP and ideologically antipodal AIUDF on the same boat. All the while, a ‘secret understanding’ with the BJP remained.
“The AGP gave away its insecurity, and voters are smart enough to realize which party would give it stability,” said poll analyst Dilip Chandan.
The Congress victory also ridiculed a relentless campaign by RTI activist and farmers leader Akhil Gogoi. The AGP had somewhat piggybacked the RTI activist, but in the final reckoning, his pro-poor campaigns ended up as anti-Congress and anti-Tarun Gogoi tirades.
The contest in Assam since mid-1980s has been between the AGP and Congress. Born after the anti-foreigners agitation (1979-1985) spearheaded by All Assam Students’ Union, the AGP had ruled the state twice – from 1985 to 1990 and 1996 to 2001 – to keep the flag of regionalism fluttering.
“The future of AGP – and of their senior leaders – is at stake,” said a political analyst, adding Verdict 2011 could have been a case of siding with a lesser evil. That the AGP has to chart a new course became apparent with party president Patowary’s loss to Congress’ Nilamani Sen Deka in Dharmapur constituency.
By evening, another senior leader – working president Phani Bhushan Choudhury – announced his ‘sannyas’ from politics despite winning the Bongaigaon seat for the sixth time.