Two-time Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has staged a comeback – as a candidate of the party he had founded after 10 years.
On Monday, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) released its second list of 35 candidates. They included 17 of its 25 legislators, one of them being Mahanta.
Among the 35 is Mahanta’s bête noire Brindaban Goswami, whose elevation as AGP president in 2001 gradually saw the former being sidelined.
While Goswami hopes to retain his pet Tezpur seat in north-central Assam, Mahanta would be in familiar territory – Barhampur seat in central Assam’s Nagaon district.Mahanta has never lost Barhampur since 1985, days after he became the founder-president of AGP, a byproduct of the anti-foreigners Assam Agitation from 1979-1985. But AGP lost him in the 2006 assembly election, a year after he had broken away to form the AGP (Pragatisheel).
Mahanta was his breakaway party’s lone victor. But AGP(P) did eat up a chunk of votes that would have otherwise gone to the AGP. His return – as also that of two other factions – to the parent party in October 2008 is expected to stand the AGP in good stead.
The former chief minister (1985-1991 and 1996-2001) soon clawed his way up to become the Leader of the Opposition in the 126-member House. That he would be one of AGP’s key candidates was never in doubt, but figuring in the party’s second list of nominees did make him a touch emotional.
“It’s nice to be back in the party a few of us had formed 26 years ago,” Mahanta said. “It’s like starting from scratch again, and we know we have a long road ahead.”
The AGP isn’t just battling the Congress to return to power. It is also combating forces within and angry supporters who have sniffed a ‘poll deal’ with the BJP.
Both AGP and BJP have denied a ‘secret understanding’, but the nomination of unknown newcomers against each other’s strong candidates has been a giveaway.