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Mahanta fate hangs in balance

Guwahati, Jan. 10: The crucial AGP steering committee meeting got under way late tonight amid indications from party leaders that legislators Abdul Jabbar and Ali Akbar Mian would be expelled, but nobody was willing to hazard a guess about the fate of former party president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and his colleague Bhrigu Kumar Phukan.

'It is very easy to expel, but very difficult to retain,' a senior AGP leader said before the meeting.

Party president Brindaban Goswami yesterday said during a zonal meeting at Gauripur in Dhubri district that the suspended legislators would be shown the door. The duo was suspended after they abstained from voting in the Rajya Sabha election last year that led to the defeat of AGP candidate and former Union minister Birendra Prasad Baishya.

Goswami said the party would not tolerate any anti-party activity and indiscipline.

Interacting with mediapersons at Chapar, the AGP chief avoided a direct reply on Mahanta and put the onus on the steering committee to decide the fate of the two-time chief minister.

Several party leaders said Mahanta had made a mistake by attending a recent hush-hush meeting at former AGP minister Atul Koch's residence along with Phukan and Rajendra Mushahary, who is now in judicial custody for alleged rape.

'Had that not happened, today's meeting could have probably sorted out the issue,' one of them said. 'Given the circumstances, we cannot put pressure on Goswami to reverse the disciplinary action against Mahanta.'

However, most of the leaders were convinced that Mahanta and Phukan would not be suspended. 'We need them for the well-being of the party. We already have enough trouble on our hands,' one of the leaders said, referring to the Assembly elections next year.

The president, secretary and eight executive members from 11 district committees attended the zonal meeting. Party general secretaries Phanibhusan Choudhury, Dilip Saikia Sonowal, Atul Bora and Baishya, legislators Prasanta Kumar Barua, Bonendra Mushahary and Bhupen Roy, and former minister Aminul Islam were also present at the conclave.

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