Mahanta’s among five AGP-held seats likely to go to BJP in Assam
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to field its candidates from at least five constituencies currently represented by ally Asom Gana Parishad lawmakers, including former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, 68, leaders from the two parties said.
Mahanta formed the AGP after signing the 1985 Assam Accord with the Centre for identifying and deporting undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants from the state. He went on to become the chief minister twice and has been winning his Barhampur seat since 1991.
Mahanta, who was last month airlifted to Delhi for treatment after he complained of uneasiness, is not known to enjoy a good relationship with AGP chief Atul Bora, who is a minister in Assam’s ruling coalition. He has been critical of AGP and the government.
“If BJP gets its wish, Mahanta might have to switch his seat. He won the Nagaon seat in 1985 and also in 1996 [when he contested two]. There is also speculation that due to his health issues, AGP might even field his wife, Joyshree Goswami Mahanta, or son,” said an AGP leader, who did not want to be named.
The BJP came to power in Assam for the first time when it won 60 seats in the 126-member state assembly in 2016. Its allies AGP and Bodoland Peoples’ Front won 14 and 12 seats. The BJP fielded 84 candidates in 2016 and AGP 14. This time, the AGP has asked for more seats amid differences over seat-sharing. Swapping of seats has also been discussed.
Top BJP, AGP and United Peoples Party Liberal (UPPL) leaders flew to Delhi to finalise a seat-sharing arrangement after meetings with BJP president JP Nadda and Union home minister Amit Shah.
“Almost 99% of seat-sharing talks are over and the rest will be sorted out in Delhi. There are no major differences with AGP and UPPL. We can expect an announcement late on Wednesday,” said BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Elections in Assam will be held in three phases on March 27, April 1, and April 6. The notification for the first phase of elections to 47 seats was issued on Tuesday.
Akhil Ranjan Dutta, a political science professor at Gauhati University, said seat-sharing and selection of candidates would be crucial for the ruling coalition and the opposition parties. “There could be serious differences if the parties cannot get it right.”