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Wife wages lonely battle as Mahanta keeps away

Jayashree Mahanta, the wife of Assam ex-CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, is fighting a lonely battle in upcoming elections.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, Guwahati
PUBLISHED ON APR 09, 2004 08:29 PM IST

Jayashree Goswami Mahanta, the wife of former Assam chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, is fighting a lonely battle in the upcoming elections.

Denied the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) party ticket, Jayashree decided to contest for the western parliamentary seat of Dhubri as an independent candidate.

And the AGP leadership was quick to react, expelling her from the party for indiscipline. But Jayashree is unfazed by the expulsion or the fact that her husband is keeping away from directly campaigning for her fearing adverse reaction from the AGP leadership.

"I have the support of the people and don't want the backing of any political party in my campaigning," said Jayashree, a former member of the upper house of parliament.

While she is busy seeking votes, driving through dusty lanes and villages in Dhubri, which borders Bangladesh, her husband has been designated by the AGP as campaign manager for the two eastern Assam constituencies of Nagaon and Kaliabor - a deliberate move to keep the couple away at least for elections.

"I am a loyal party worker and whatever responsibility is given to me I am ready to accept," Mahanta said. He, however, evaded a direct reply to a query if he would campaign for Jayashree in a constituency where an official AGP candidate is contesting the upcoming general election.

Mahanta had resigned as AGP president in 2001 after being accused of illegally marrying his mistress. Mahanta denied the bigamy charges.

But political observers say the move by Jayashree to contest the polls defying the party's decision could further sideline husband Mahanta from the AGP.

Ever since Mahanta resigned as AGP president in 2001, he has been in virtual political wilderness. Mahanta, who formed the AGP in 1985, was humiliated earlier this year when he lost the elections for the party president's post to Brindabon Goswami.

"The internal contradictions within the Mahantas could prove costly for the former chief minister's political career," one analyst said.

Jayashree in 1998 was the AGP candidate from the Nagaon parliamentary seat and faced a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

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