Assam's 'people's party', beaten by the voter, now battered from within
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The party that once captured Assam's imagination has sunk to its lowest depths yet. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has seen 15 senior leaders either quitting or giving up party posts in the last month alone, and a section within has challenged the leadership of its founder president, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, by blaming him for landing it in the current mess.
The AGP, born out of a six-year-long students' movement over infiltration from Bangladeshi, had swept the 1985 elections within two months of its formation. Mahanta had become India's youngest chief minister, coming straight from his university hostel.
Among the seniors who have fallen out with Mahanta is Hitendra Nath Goswami, a three-time MLA and former power minister. "The old guard should quit and hand over the party to younger people," he says. Another senior leader, Padma Hazarika, has called Mahanta solely responsible for the AGP's shrinking image and base.
The party's slide in the past few years has been evident in elections. It had formed the government alone in 1985, and then with the CPI and the CPM in 1996. Its strength in the assembly fell to 25 out of 126 in 2006, then to just 10 in 2011, and to nine now after the death of a member. And last month, in the Guwahati municipal elections, the party that had won a majority in the last elections, held a decade ago, managed just one seat out of 31.
Mahanta is not willing to shoulder all the responsibility. "There have been one or two individuals who, from the very beginning, have not cooperated in running the party, and such opposition remains even today," he says. "But even if some people are continuously blaming me for the present state of things, I have never taken any decision on my own since I took over as president [his current term began in 2012]. Every decision has been taken collectively."