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Omit Mahanta from regional unity : AASU
Published on 17 Aug. 2008 10:13 PM IST
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The move for unifying the major regional political parties in Assam has hit a roadblock with the influential All Assam Students' Union (AASU) saying that former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and his party must be kept out of the process. The state's main opposition party, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), had initiated the move for regional unity earlier this year to take on the ruling Congress that is having a free run in the elections in the absence of a strong and cohesive regional force to contend with. "We are in favour of a unified regional force but that has to be without Mahanta and his party. He has betrayed the people of Assam by not doing anything to detect and expel illegal Bangladeshi migrants who are threatening to overwhelm the state's indigenous people," AASU advisor Samujjal Bhattacharya said Sunday. A delegation of the AASU met with members of the AGP unification committee Saturday to discuss the issue and stayed firm on its demand to keep AGP founder-president and twice chief minister Mahanta out of the process. Mahanta, who was expelled by the AGP in July 2005 on charges of alleged anti-party activities, floated a new party called the AGP (Progressive). The split in the AGP has come to cost the party dear with committed regional party votes splitting, giving the Congress a clear edge. A realisation among the regional forces of the need for unity among them had led the AGP to start the unification process that included Mahanta and his AGP (Progressive) in the plan. AASU members put up posters at the venue of the meeting with the AGP and one of them read: "Why was the Assam Accord not implemented even after 23 years of its signing?" The charge against Mahanta is that he did not do enough to initiate moves to rid Assam of illegal Bangladeshi migrants although that was the promise with which the AGP was formed in 1985. Another charge that is haunting Mahanta is over the mystery killings of relatives of militants during his tenure as chief minister. These have come to be called 'secret killings'. An enquiry commission instituted by the Congress government has already indicted Mahanta on the 'secret killing' issue although no action has been initiated against him. Commenting on the AASU's condition, AGP spokesman Atul Bora said: "We shall place the AASU's stand before our party's central committee." What is significant is that the AASU has come to pursue a rigid posture on the matter by asking the AGP to keep Mahanta out although it is supposed to be a non-political student organisation. "I am surprised to see the AGP seeking AASU's support on a purely political issue like unification among regional parties. The AASU's posture doesn't bother me as it has a view on almost anything in the state," said Topon Lal Baruah, president of the Guwahati-based Centre for Development and Peace Studies, a think tank.

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