Friday, November 06, 2009

Going, going. Gone?

The only party in Assam, that not only gave the Congress a run for its money but also defeated it in two Assembly elections, the Asom Gana Parishad, seems to be on its deathbed, Monalisa Gogoi writes

For the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), the issue is no longer about winning elections. The party, that defeated the mighty Congress in two Assembly elections, is suffering from bitter internecine conflict. The results of the vicious infighting are beginning to manifest. The AGP seems on its deathbed, having lost 10 straight elections at various levels, a party with which no one wants to stay anymore. The crutch of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), that, it had hoped will help it to stay on its feet lies broken, with the national party having reaped more benefits from the desperate marriage.

The latest to quit the party include former AGO general secretary and former general secretary of the powerful All Assam Students’ Union (Aasu) Prabin Boro and Phani Pathak, an AGP candidate in the last Assembly polls. The reasons for departure can be traced to the fact that the AGP has failed to deliver on just about every front, economic, political and regional. While it was in power, it did nothing to address the foreign nationals’ problem in the state, an issue that had got them elected in the first place.

“I was made the spokesperson of the party and yet not allowed to speak to anyone. Senior leaders questioned my abilities,” says Boro, who, unlike many of his Bodo community, chose to join the AGP, even when Bodo factions set up their own militant and political fronts thereby wiping out the AGP’s presence from such areas. The Bodo People’s Front (BPF) eventually became a part of the current ruling Congress coalition. “The AGP,” says Boro, who has now joined the BPF, “is now a club. They have no place for young leaders and that is the main cause of the decay. The AGP’s losing spree is the result of the decisions of its leaders.” The problem is endemic. “I now keep myself confined to Tezpur,“ says Brindaban Goswami, a former president of the party, and MLA from Tezpur, who at one stage had unseated Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, the former Aasu president who later headed two AGP governments. “No one looks for me anymore,” Goswami now says, having handed over the reins of the party to current president Chandramohan Patowary, who, too, has had a disastrous run, leading the party from one defeat to another. Scores of grassroot cadres in districts such as Sonitpur and North Lakhimpur have abandoned the AGP in search of greener pastures. Having lost the last Lok Sabha elections, Arun Sarma, a two-time parliamentarian, is now back as professor at the Veterinary College in Guwahati.

Attempts to improve the situation now verge on the desperate, if not ridiculous. The only change that has been visible in the AGP during its downslide is the direction of the main gate at its headquarters. When Mahanta was around, it faced the east. During Brindaban Goswami’s time, it was changed to the north. Now, with Patowary, it is back to the north after having been changed to the east once in between. In the absence of political acumen, it is now Vaastu that now rules the precincts of the AGP headquarters. Phani Bhushan Choudhury, a senior leader who, in October, 2008, fought tooth and nail to unite the various factions of the AGP — Mahanta’s AGP (Progressive) and senior rebel leader Atul Bora’s Trinamool Gana Parishad (TGP) — before the Lok Sabha elections responds by disconnecting the phone when asked about the AGP’s current Vaastu manifesto.

“Every leader has his choice,” explains Apurba Bhattacharjee, a party general secretary. An unnaturally thin gathering of party cadres at the head office on the AGP’s foundation day this month is just an indication of where the party stands with the people in the state. Having ruled the state through two terms, the party now has 24 seats in a Legislative Assembly of 126. Its regional base among indigenous communities such as the Karbis, Bodos, Misings, and the tea garden workers’ community is all but gone, with most communities having successfully formed their own political fronts. Repeated attempts to contact Patowary for an estimate of affairs in the party failed, the staple answer being, “I’m in a meeting.”

It’s tragic for a party that 856 students had died to set up. They laid down their lives in the six-year-long Assam Agitation under Aasu leadership in the 1970s and ‘80s. Just about nothing seems to be able to stem the decay that now eats into the very core of the AGP. First came the vertical split in the party and forming of the Natun Asom Gana Parishad (NAGP) in 1990-91 by Bhrigu Kumar Phukan, a close associate of Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. After the two factions came together in 1994, came the expulsion of Prafulla Mahanta who, then, formed the AGP (P) about five years ago while Atul Bora formed the TGP. It was only a year ago that the factions came together to fight under the AGP banner. The Purbanchaliya Lok Parishad (PLP), a respected political group too joined the AGP, thanks to the efforts of a few who wanted a united Opposition in the state. Yet the Lok Sabha elections proved disastrous, one that is widely blamed on the AGP’s lack of courage to go it alone. The right-wing BJP walked away with four seats while the AGP was left with one.
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Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2009

An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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