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Goswami & Toppo back

Guwahati, March 14: The beleaguered AGP had something to smile about today with senior leader Brindaban Goswami signalling his return to active party work ahead of the general elections and its sitting Tezpur MP Joseph Toppo returning to the party fold within 24 hours of resigning.

Goswami, a former Tezpur MLA who had maintained a very low profile since his ouster as AGP president in 2008, gave the call for strengthening regionalism along with incumbent president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta at the party’s headquarters in Ambari here.

Goswami had replaced Mahanta as party president in 2001.

The development also assumes significance as it comes in wake of the party losing senior leaders like Chandra Mohan Patowary, who had replaced Goswami as party president, Hitendra Nath Goswami and Bijon Mahajan to the BJP in quick succession, party sources said. Another senior leader, Padma Hazarika, remains suspended for anti-party activities.

Goswami’s “inspiring” speech at the manifesto release, along with the return of Toppo, who had resigned from the party yesterday, appeared to have “boosted” the morale of partymen, AGP watchers said. Toppo was today re-nominated as the party’s candidate for the Tezpur seat.

Party insiders admitted that the presence of Goswami and Toppo at Ambari was the best thing to happen in the run-up to the general elections after the series of desertions and dissidence.

“It has sent the right message to the party rank and file. The party has made a statement of intent — of setting its house in order and of giving a good fight in the ensuing polls,” one of them said.

A former AGP leader, now in the Congress, said the party appeared relaxed after a long time. “But it may have come too late in the day,” he added.

Senior party leaders such as Thaneswar Boro, Kamala Kalita, Rekha Rani Das Boro and Durga Das Boro and the party’s candidates for general elections, Joseph Toppo, Pradip Hazarika, Birendra Kumar Baishya, Phani Bhushan Choudhury and Mridula Borkakoty, were present at the manifesto release.

Toppo, Hazarika, Baishya and Choudhury are formidable candidates in their own right and may queer the pitch for the BJP, which had won four seats in alliance with the AGP in 2009. Talks for a pre-poll tie-up this time came unstuck as it had in the 2011 Assembly polls, which saw both parties suffer heavy losses.