GUWAHATI: The divisions in the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) on the issue of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) came to the fore on Tuesday when ex-CM Prafulla Kumar Mahanta found the party head office in Guwahati locked when he arrived for a meeting.
The development forced the two-time former chief minister to change the venue of the meeting reportedly organised to discuss the amended citizenship law.
Early in the morning, a section of AGP workers opposed to the CAA started arriving at the site but found the gate of the party head office locked. This made them register a protest. Fearing trouble, the authorities rushed police and paramilitary forces to the site. They stood guard as the AGP workers vented their ire against the party leadership.
Later, Mahanta and other leaders close to him arrived but on seeing the gate locked, they decided to hold the meeting at Lakshmiram Baruah Sadan in the vicinity.
The AGP faction led by Mahanta is opposed to the CAA on the grounds that it is a blanket invitation to illegal Bangladeshi immigrants to come and settle down in Assam. Another faction, led by almost all top leaders including party president Atul Bora, too asserts that it is opposed to the CAA but its actions of the recent past suggest otherwise.
Birendra Prasad Baishya, AGP’s lone MP who is believed to be from Bora’s camp, had voted in favour of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill despite criticising it.
Mahanta was not available for comment and but some AGP workers, who attended the meeting, described the three AGP ministers – Bora, working president Keshab Mahanta and Phani Bhushan Choudhury – as “traitors” who “mortgaged” the Assamese to the BJP.
Later, Choudhury told journalists that it was not a party meeting which was held under Mahanta’s leadership and as such, it had no “importance”.
“Two people coming together and holding a meeting cannot be a meeting of the party. I urge Mahanta not to indulge in any activities that may harm the party but work to strengthen it,” Choudhury said.
The AGP is a constituent of Assam’s three-party ruling coalition. The trio of ministers had resigned early last year when the AGP had pulled out of the Sarbananda Sonowal government just ahead of the tabling of the CAB in the Lok Sabha. They had returned as ministers ahead of the Lok Sabha elections when the AGP joined the government again.