The demise of regional politics in Assam started right after the rise of the Congress Government of Tarun Gogoi in 2001. A generation that grew up during the phase of Assam Agitation of 1985 would probably understand the value and importance of regionalism, much more that what we do today. Since independence, the region of North East has been fighting a severe battle of identity with the union of India.
Eminent political commentator, Nani Gopal Mahanta in his book, Confronting the State: ULFA’s Quest of Sovereignty writes, “Stalwarts of nation building like Nehru and Patel were not perceptive to the peculiar problems of smaller states like Assam”. There has always been a difference between the Centre and Assam, especially over the question of illegal migration into Assam for quite some time now, irrespective of the state and centre government in power. This divergence of opinion or rather ignorance was somewhat reduced with the advent of the Asom Gana Parisad (AGP) after the Assam Agitation. The region found a new voice and a new era of politics saw dawn in Assam.
Even today AGP proclaims that they might be out of power in Assam at the moment but the views and ideology that it represents cannot be ignored. A regional party like the AGP understands the feeling of the people better than any national party can ever do; a party like the AGP has no high command like the Congress or the BJP other than the people themselves.
In the due course of time, it was however believed that these regional parties would make their voice more audible at the national level. There rise in the state politics affair was believed only to be a beginning of an era. Assam, in fact the North East has always been a Congress power house, if fact it still is. Nationalist parties like Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) never really marked an impact over the region. Hence, AGP was considered an alternative for Congress definitely.
But the turn of events over the past fifteen years have definitely been not fruitful for the regionalist Asom Gana Parisad. When the youngest Chief Minister of the country Mr. Prafulla Kr. Mahanta was overthrown by his Congress and a new Government of Assam was formed under the leadership of Mr. Tarun Gogoi in the year 2001, bringing an end to five year AGP rule. The residents of the state of Assam slowly began to run out of choice.
Leaving aside the state politics and if we see the larger picture, Assam has just 14 Lok Sabha seats. And till date, it’s pretty sad that only 14 AGP contestants have made it to the Parliament. Hence, regional representation of AGP at the national level has always been very poor.
Things went further out of hand for the state party when Sarbananda Sonowal, considered a star member of the Asom Gana Parishad left the party to join BJP in the year 2011. It was a huge blow for the party in the state as Sonowal has been the former president of the All Assam Students Union (AASU), of which AGP was curved out.
He was also the former General Secretary of AGP and hence a large proportion of loyal followers shifted their loyalty in favour of BJP. Ironically he is now the state president of the Bharatiya Janta Party.
In the recent years AGP has seen numerous divisions. Formation of Asom Gana Parisad Progressive (AGP (P)) by Prafulla Kr. Mahanta to internal differences, the party has time and again given ample of chances to the people of Assam to doubt their existence. It has failed to live up to the expectations of an entire population who once had faith in them for their rationalistic attitude.
With the Lok Sabha elections 2014 just round the corner, another blow awaited the party as former president of AGP followed the likes of Sonowal and joined the BJP and is not contesting elections from Barpeta. This can be seen as a deadly blow for the party, if not anything a negative impact is bound to fall on the voting population.
Whatever be the result of the current election. Many predict the rise of BJP in the region while Congress still believes that they will maintain the strong hold. But one thing seems very certain, AGP is sure to lose more and more ground in the state. There are a lot of plus and minuses to the situation, but as a voter from the state it is pretty sad that we don’t have a regional powerhouse from the region. People talk of an alternative. People proclaim that regionalism can actually solve a lot of problems. But how can a party like AGP promise us something when they themselves happen to be in a pit.