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Old guard returns to AGP

Vinayak Ganapathy in Guwahati | February 25, 2005 17:05 IST

The old guard has returning to the Asom Gana Parishad.

Three years after being removed from the post of AGP president, former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta has been cleared of charges of indiscipline by the party's steering committee.

This will pave the way for Mahanta -- the founder president of the AGP -- to campaign for the party when Assam goes to polls in less than a year from now.

Joining hands with him to take on the ruling Congress is Mahanta's friend-turned-foe-turned friend, Bhrigu Kumar Phukan, who used to be the AGP's general secretary.

The two were sidelined after Brindaban Goswami took over as AGP president.

It is clear that Mahanta and Phukan still command a lot of following in the party. On January 28, when they came to meet the steering committee members at the party's headquarters in Guwahati to clarify the charges against them, party workers mobbed them.

"No one can think of AGP without Mahanta. He has nurtured it right from its inception. He is in fact the AGP's face in the national scenario so it is natural that his followers would make a beeline for the party office when he makes an appearance after a long gap," a Mahanta loyalist remarked.

Mahanta, who has twice been CM (1985-90 and 1996-2001), was forced to step down following a charge that he had two wives.

The allegation was made right after the AGP's defeat in the 2001 assembly election.

Phukan, in contrast, has had a chequered political journey. He split the AGP in 1991, returned to it in 1995 only to walk out again and join the P A Sanga-led Nationalist Congress Party. In 2004 he returned to the AGP and unsuccessfully fought the Guwahati Lok Sabha seat.

Goswami, a former education minister in the first Mahanta ministry, was in the meantime made party president.

Although under Goswami's leadership the AGP wrested two Lok Sabha seats from the Congress in the 2004 general election, he is seen to be incapable of leading the party's charge against the ruling Congress in the assembly election.

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