|Phukan & Mahanta. Picture by Eastern Projections
Guwahati, Jan. 11: Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) president Brindaban Goswami today came out with guns blazing, taking on his twin rivals and expelling two rebel minority leaders.
Shaking off the tag that he was too indecisive, Goswami hit back at his detractors by targeting former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and former home minister Bhrigu Kumar Phukan. He summoned them to appear separately before the party steering committee to reply to the charges of anti-party activities that have been levelled against them.
The Goswami-led steering committee came together for a marathon meeting from 9 pm last night to 4 am today. It also issued a 'last warning' to the dissidents, threatening them with stern action if they did not refrain from activities inimical to party interests.
To prove that the leadership meant business, the steering committee expelled two rebel MLAs. Ali Akbar Mian and Abdul Jabbar had embarrassed the leadership during last year's Rajya Sabha elections by abstaining from voting. This had led to the defeat of party candidate and former Union minister Birendra Prasad Baishya.
The steering committee's decision to summon the two heavyweights came as a surprise. Observers had thought that the crucial meeting would work out a reconciliation formula to patch up with the powerful Mahanta-Phukan duo, hoping to avert a split before next year's Assembly polls.
Sources said a section in the AGP is worried that Mahanta and Phukan may not take the 'humiliation' kindly and float a splinter group after resigning with their loyalists.
Mahanta said he would only react after getting an official communiqu' from the party. But he did add that he would take his decision after holding discussions with Phukan. 'We will take a joint decision after getting the notice from the party,' Mahanta said. Phukan could not be reached for his comments.
A senior AGP member said the steering committee also 'authorised' Goswami to prepare two separate sets of chargesheets. These would list Mahanta and Phukan's 'misdeeds' since 1985, when the party first came to power in Dispur.
The leader added that the dissident duo would be asked to furnish point-by-point replies to the chargesheets.
The panel will meet again on January 18 to take a final decision on the party's disciplinary action against Mahanta after he appears before it to clarify his position.
Addressing a news conference this afternoon, Goswami said the steering committee expressed concern over the 'unrest' created within the party by the statements by some senior leaders against the party leadership.
Goswami said the party will be 'very liberal' while taking any decision on the fate of the dissident leaders.
He also said Jabbar and Mian had forced the party to take drastic action against them by not 'reforming themselves' even after they were suspended. 'We thought the duo will reform themselves. But they continued with their anti-party activities, compelling us to take this decision.'
The meeting also expanded the steering committee by inducting Zoii Nath Sarma, Atul Bora, Hiranya Konwar, Sarbananda Sonowal and Ramendra Narayan Kalita.
The committee also decided to hold a statewide agitation on January 24 against the various moves by the state government, such as imposition of taxes on essential commodities, which could turn out to be inflationary.