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AGP in free fall since 2001

AGP party office in Guwahati wears a deserted look on Friday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, May 16: The almost deserted AGP headquarters here around 10.30am gave an indication of what the day had in store for the regional party.

As the counting of votes gained momentum across the state, it seemed that the once-famed Ambari address had lost the fight in the morning itself. There was hardly a soul to be sighted and that just about portrayed a sorry tale of party that was once a force to reckon with.

On the other hand, an ally of the past — the BJP — had made rapid inroads in the state, like in most parts of the country. The state’s tally at the end of the day said it all: BJP 7, Congress 3, AIUDF 3 and AGP 0.

The rise of the BJP in Assam underlined the marginalisation of the AGP, which is in a free fall since losing power in 2001.

The graph as a matter of fact has been going downward to almost zilch this time. From one seat (Tezpur) in 2009 when it partnered BJP that won four seats then, it has drawn a blank now. In 2004, the regional party had won two seats.

While several of its senior leaders left the party for the BJP, the others fielded by the party also lost.

One notable defeat was senior leader and former Rajya Sabha member Birendra Prasad Baishya’s dismal fourth in the Gauhati constituency. Baishya has been one of the most vocal MPs from the Northeast and one who had the courage of making his stance clear against the land-swap deal with Bangladesh in Parliament.

Other senior leaders who cut a sorry figure are Arun Sarma in Kaliabor, Joseph Toppo in Tezpur and Phani Bhushan Choudhury in Barpeta.

The departure of senior leaders such as Chandra Mohan Patowary and Hitendra Nath Goswami to the BJP also had a bearing on the outcome.

Insiders say selection of candidates and lack of an agenda to woo the voters to a party that had already lost its base in the state were factors that cost the AGP dear.

The party, which once ran two state governments after the Assam Agitation, now has only nine MLAs in the 126-member House.

Senior leaders such as Brindaban Goswami are still talking tough in defeat, saying regionalism will never lose its relevance in Assam. “A lot will depend on how the party leadership responds to the challenge posed by the result. We have drawn a blank in the past too, in 1997 and 1999. It is a vote against the Congress,” he said.

Political commentator Arupjyoti Choudhury also feels that it will be too early to rule out the AGP in context of the state politics if there is a “course correction” by the leadership.

“The result reflects that the people did not want to waste a vote. People wanted to give a clear mandate to the BJP because of Modi. AGP loyalists also shifted to the BJP. But it will have a role to play in state politics,” he said.