The BJP-led alliance government in Assam bears the stamp of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), whose anti-foreigners’ agitation of 1979-85 gave the state its pet election issue — Bangladeshis.
Chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal is the second AASU president after Prafulla Kumar Mahanta (1985-1990 and 1996-2001) to head the state. Mahanta’s Asom Gana Parishad, of which he was the founder-president, is one of the BJP’s ruling allies.
And they are not the only AASU presidents who would be calling the shots for the next five years.
The oldest among them is AGP’s Brindaban Goswami, 66, who was Mahanta’s predecessor in the AASU. Both are expected to have an advisory role in Sonowal’s government.
Mahanta had led the AASU during the six-year Assam Agitation.
The two other former AASU presidents in Sonowal’s ministry are his predecessors — AGP leader Keshab Mahanta, 56, and current AGP president Atul Bora, 55.
The BJP’s 47-year-old Himanta Biswa Sarma, a key man in Sonowal’s ministry, too has an AASU link. He was a leader of the All Guwahati Students’ Union, a constituent of the AASU.
Other BJP legislators with an AASU past include Atul Bora (senior to AGP president and fellow MLA of the same name), Padma Hazarika, Tapan Gogoi and Hitendranath Goswami, who was with an associate body.
The AGP legislators who played a major role in union are Phani Bhushan Choudhury, Ramendra Narayan Kalita, Utpal Dutta and Pabindra Deka.
The Asom Jatiyatabadi Juba Chhatra Parishad, which spearheaded the Assam Agitation along with the AASU, too has senior MLAs who are likely to play a major role in the Sonowal government. They are Chandra Mohan Patowary of the BJP, and Pradip Hazarika and Naren Sonowal, both of AGP.
The AASU had its origin in the pre-independence Assam Chhatra Sanmilani that later split into the All Assam Students’ Federation and the All Assam Students’ Congress in 1940.
These two merged a decade later to become All Assam Students’ Association, which was renamed AASU in 1967.