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A homecoming for Assam's B K Phukan

G Vinayak in Guwahati | March 24, 2004 15:18 IST

It's not quite the return of the prodigal, but it certainly is a homecoming for Bhrigu Kumar Phukan.

Six years after he was expelled from the Asom Gana Parishad, Assam's former home minister is all set to rejoin the regional outfit and take on the Bharatiya Janata Party's newest recruit, Bhupen Hazarika, in the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat.

His return will be officially announced at a rally on March 27.

For Phukan, this is the second homecoming to the party he helped found in October 1985 with his former colleagues in the All Assam Students Union, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. In 1991, he and a few others had split from the parent unit to form the Natun Asom Gana Parishad, only to reunite in 1995.

Phukan's troubles with the AGP started after ego clashes with his then close friend Mahanta.

After leading the famous Assam agitation against foreigners between 1979 and 1985, Mahanta became the chief minister and Phukan his home minister.

But less than three years later they split, and that helped the Congress regain power in Assam.

By 1995, when Phukan had returned to the AGP, Mahanta had a stranglehold over the party. Despite coming back to power Mahanta thus had no place for Phukan in the ministry. Discontent continued till Phukan was expelled in 1998.

By 2001 Mahanta had lost power to the Congress again and Phukan had travelled to the Nationalist Congress Party, mainly at the instance of former Lok Sabha speaker Purno A Sangma. But when Sangma decided to join hands with Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, Phukan was left with no alternative but to return to the AGP.

Of course, it helps that Mahanta is longer at the helm. After a humiliating defeat in the assembly elections in 2001 and his subsequent loss to Brindaban Goswami in the contest for party presidentship in January this year, Mahanta has been sidelined from party affairs. Phukan, therefore, feels relieved to be back.

Announcing his decision to return to the party, Phukan expectedly was severely critical of Mahanta's move to introduce "dynastic rule" and undermine democracy in the AGP. Under Mahanta the AGP government miserably failed to live up to the expectations of the people, Phukan said. "Though the Mahanta lobby kicked me out of the AGP they could not drive me out of the minds of the people of Assam," he said.

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