Several top leaders of Assam's opposition Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) have come out against the decision to continue the alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). They say that the AGP's regional character would be lost if it insists on sticking to the saffron party.
"We want the party to make its stand clear on this issue of aligning with the BJP. Our experience is that no national parties are able to understand and appreciate regional aspirations. In the long run, a tie up with the BJP would be detrimental for AGP's interests," former AGP president Brindaban Goswami told IANS.
The AGP leadership earlier this week announced that it would continue with its alliance with the BJP for next month's by-elections for two seats.
By-polls to the two seats of Dhekiajuli and South Salmara were necessitated following their legislators being elected as MPs in the last Lok Sabha polls. Voting is scheduled for Nov 7.
Badruddin Ajmal of the Asom United Democratic Front (AUDF) vacated the South Salmara , while AGP legislator Joseph Toppo resigned from the Dhekiakuli seat.
As per the seat sharing agreement, the AGP would field a candidate in the Dhekiajuli seat, while the BJP would contest the South Salmara seat.
Despite the AGP putting up a brave front and maintaining it would stick to its alliance with the BJP, the regional party was under tremendous pressure from its rank and file to sever ties with the saffron party after the AGP fared poorly in parliamentary elections.
The AGP won just one seat in the parliamentary elections, while the BJP seized the opportunity of the alliance to win four seats.
In the 2004 elections, the AGP and the BJP had won two seats each -there was no electoral tie up then.
"We have to ensure that our regional identity is not lost. That is very important for the AGP," former chief minister and founder president of the AGP Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said, a clear hint that even he is not happy with the tie up with the BJP.
But party president Chandra Mohan Patowary insists the tie up with the BJP would continue till the 2011 assembly elections.
Several other party leaders said off the record that the tie up with the BJP was proving to be counterproductive and that the AGP's image had got a battering due to the alignment.