Former Assam chief minister and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) founder Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has said that selection of right candidates by the party would be crucial for next month's parliamentary elections.
"Selection of candidates is one of the major factors for a party winning or losing a seat," Mahanta, Leader of the Opposition, told IANS.
Mahanta, twice chief minister of the state and founder of the AGP, re-joined the party in October, four years after he was unceremoniously expelled on charges of anti-party activities.
Mahanta had formed a splinter group called the AGP-Progressive after he was replaced as party president in 2001 on an alleged bigamy charge. Mahanta denied the charge.
Although he is back in the AGP, Mahanta continues to be sidelined by the party leadership when it comes to taking important decisions, including chalking out election strategies.
"If the party wants my help in campaigning I am ready to do that as a disciplined member of the AGP," Mahanta said.
But the former chief minister did not sound too confident about the pre-poll alliance between the AGP and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
"It all depends on how we are able to reach out to the people without compromising on our basic principles of regionalism, secularism and communal harmony," Mahanta said.
"But I think if we are focussed, the end result of the AGP-BJP combine should be positive."
The AGP-BJP alliance suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Congress party during the 2001 assembly elections, which is still fresh in his mind.
"That time there were lots of problems with the BJP divided over the alliance in Assam, and the main reason was the very poor attendance at an election meeting by then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Guwahati," Mahanta said.
"The differences led to the AGP-BJP alliance failing at that point in time. So the need of the hour now is to fight the polls shedding all differences to challenge the Congress."
The founder president of the AGP said an able leadership was a must for a party.
"It is true that leadership does matter when it comes to a party as it is the leadership that gives direction and focus to the work. But also important is the support and commitment of the workers and supporters," Mahanta said.
Political observers are of the view that if the AGP-BJP combine fails to click in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Assam, Mahanta might once again head the party he founded in 1985.