Two-time former Chief Minister of Assam, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, is also the founder of Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), a political party born out of the bloody movement against illegal immigrants, spearheaded by the All Assam Student’s Union in the early 1980s.
He is among a section of the AGP leaders who have stood stoutly against the party’s pre-poll alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which heads Assam’s ruling coalition. His stance saw him getting increasingly isolated within the AGP. He tells Prasanta Mazumdar of The new Indian Express why he is opposed to the alliance, the future of the AGP and much more.
How do you see the AGP-BJP pre-poll alignment? Is it going to hurt the AGP in the long run?
This will surely hurt the AGP. If the AGP is to contest alone in all 14 seats of Assam, the party workers would get a chance to campaign for the party’s candidates across the state. People would have seen the AGP’s elephant symbol all across.
In politics, visibility matters. Now that the AGP has been given just three seats by the BJP, as per their seat-sharing arrangement, the AGP’s presence will be limited to only three Parliamentary constituencies.
A lot of AGP workers are aggrieved that the party has forged the pre-poll alliance with the
BJP. They wanted the AGP to contest the elections alone. So, if these workers do not lend their support, the results will not be good for the AGP.
Do you think the alliance was an arbitrary decision?
The AGP cannot function as per the wishes of a handful of leaders (who had taken the decision on alliance with BJP). The AGP’s image has already taken a hit. But the party has to be kept alive in the interests of Assam and the Assamese people.
Did the AGP deserve more than three seats?
It’s a raw deal for the AGP and it is not going to help the party. The AGP has its base across the state. But due to this alliance and the resultant seat-sharing arrangement, it can now contest only in three seats. I was opposed to this alliance because the BJP has vowed to pursue the issue of Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 if it retains power at the Centre.
Is there any truth in media reports that a condition of the alliance was that you will be appointed as the Governor of Mizoram?
During every poll season, there will be reports that Prafulla Kumar Mahanta will become the governor of a state and his wife (Jaishree Goswami Mahanta) will be sent to the Rajya Sabha. So, this election is no exception. The basic idea behind spreading such lies is to project me as an opportunist and malign me and remove me from the scene. I don’t fight elections for personal gain. I have been fighting since my student life for the greater interests of Assam and the Assamese people. By spreading lies, people are being misled. This is a conspiracy.
Are you being targeted due to your opposition to Citizenship Bill?
I am not opposed to this controversial bill for the greed of becoming the AGP president or the Governor of a state. I want necessary constitutional safeguards for the people of Assam as committed in Clause 6 of the Assam Accord of 1984. I cannot think of betraying people and destroy the fabric of the AGP by joining hands with communal and anti-Assam forces.
Do you now see a future of the AGP given its recent flip-flop which saw it severing ties with the BJP protesting against the Citizenship Bill and then realigning with it in two months?
I believe the AGP will suffer for this. I have appealed to AGP workers, who were associated with the party since its birth and then had deserted it for some reasons, to return and strengthen the party.
Do you feel you are getting increasingly isolated within the AGP?
I have always found myself isolated within the party. Despite that, I have been sincerely working for the party.
Do you have any plan to quit AGP?
I am the founding president of the AGP and I do not have any plans to leave it. However, some people want me to quit the party. If I do that, they will be happy.