Dhubri/Guwahati, March 31: Former Rajya Sabha member Jayashree Goswami-Mahanta today filed her nomination as an Independent candidate for the Dhubri Lok Sabha seat, immediately attracting an expulsion notice from the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP).
The two AGP legislators who had boycotted the Rajya Sabha election on March 26 — it jeopardised the party candidate Birendra Prasad Baishya’s prospects — were with Goswami-Mahanta when she formalised her candidature for the Dhubri seat.
The development left little doubt that the faction led by her husband, Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, is trying to queer the pitch for party president Brindaban Goswami, who recently won a second term in office after a hard-fought battle with the former chief minister.
The AGP expelled Goswami-Mahanta for challenging Afzalur Rahman, who is the party’s official candidate in Dhubri constituency. AGP spokesperson Jagadish Bhuyan said the decision to penalise her was taken at a meeting of senior party leaders, including Goswami, this afternoon.
Goswami-Mahanta’s partners, legislators Ali Akbar Mian and Abdul Jabbar, got a less stringent verdict on Sunday. Both were placed under suspension, pending an in-house inquiry into their role in the Rajya Sabha debacle.
After filing her nomination, Goswami-Mahanta let loose a volley of invectives at Goswami, accusing him of running the party like a dictator. “There is no democracy in the party now, and everyone is being forced to toe the line of the president Brindaban Goswami. New faces are being inducted into the party without consulting other party leaders,” she said.
Goswami-Mahanta hails from Gauripur in Dhubri district. Aware that her action would invite the AGP leadership’s wrath, she wasted no time in sending her resignation letter to the party headquarters.
Like her husband, Goswami-Mahanta had been an AGP member since its inception in 1985. She was circumspect on being asked whether her husband would campaign for her. “As he is still a member of the AGP, that may not be possible,” she said.
Goswami-Mahanta said her husband, a former AGP president, was still loved and respected. “He is loved by all sections of the people, who have trust in his leadership. His influence will be felt everywhere.”
Mahanta himself said in Guwahati tonight that he had nothing to do with his wife’s move. “It is her personal decision.”
The former chief minister parried questions on whether he would campaign for her, saying “that aspect will come later”. He also declined to say if he would campaign against her if the party leadership instructed him to accompany the AGP candidate.
Afzalur Rahman said his main rival was Anowar Hussain of the Congress and not Mahanta’s wife. “Goswami-Mahanta won’t be a factor in the poll.”
Such comments, however, seemed to have no effect on Goswami-Mahanta. Claiming to have the support of the masses, she said: “The people of my birthplace wanted me to contest (the seat) and highlight their problems in Parliament.”
She claimed to have raised “genuine” issues during her stint as a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Amid the drama over Goswami-Mahanta’s decision to go against her party, the ruling Congress changed its candidate for the Diphu seat. Kuntila Ronghangpi, who figured on the list that was finalised on March 20, made way for Biren Singh Ingti. He is up against veteran CPI (M-) leader Jayanta Rongpi.