The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) was founded on plank of regionalism that gained ground and consolidation during the six-year long Assam Movement against foreigners and culminated with the signing of the historic Assam Accord in 1985.
Over the last 33 years, the party proved to be a pathetic non-performer in the superlative degree. Although the people of Assam reposed faith on the AGP and twice offered it the seat of power in Dispur, on both the occasions the party not only failed to deliver, but indulged in utter mis-governance to the point of betrayal of the people.
The two terms of its rule in the State, witnessed the high hopes and aspirations of the people being dumped in the gutters with the party top brass according highest priority to promotion of personal agenda and indulging in galloping corruption.
Despicably enough, many AGP leaders who began their political journey virtually amidst penury, finally carved out their place among the extremely rich in the State.
Having had come to power on the strength of the Assam Accord, it was the avowed duty of the party to have implemented the Accord in letter and spirit. All odds that might have cropped up in that journey should have been torn asunder and dumped in the dustbin of history.
Alas! That was not to be. The party left the Assam Accord to literally gather dust in the chaotic shelves of the State Secretariat. Can the AGP point out which of the major clauses of the Assam Accord that it had implemented or how many foreigners were detected and deported in accordance with the law and the Assam Accord while the party was in power?
The people of Assam had witnessed enough of cheap gimmicks resorted to by the AGP and finally in 2001 conveyed through ballots the message to the AGP that ‘enough is enough … no more gimmicks please’.
That was over 18 years ago and during these years the people compelled the party to grope in absolute political wilderness.
The political integrity and vitality of the party had debased and plummeted to such low that since 2016 Assam Assembly elections it has proved to the world that it had become politically crippled even to stand on its own feet and that it needed outside support to be pretending to be standing erect.
Hence, with political sustenance provided by the BJP, the regional party managed to win a handful of seats in the 2016 Assembly polls and in the process tell the world that it was still alive.
The reality check shows that even long before the 2016 polls the political status of the party had hit the rock bottom, registering a huge zero in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Again, in the polls to the civic bodies in Assam over the last one year or so, fighting on its own, the AGP found itself being told by the people that political gutters was its rightful place.
With regionalism in the political field, particularly in the electoral arena, having landed up in the ICU and that too on ventilation at the hands of the AGP, metaphorically the graveyard journey of the so called regional party has seemingly begun.
No wonder, with oxygen supplied by the BJP and three Lok Sabha seats where, historically speaking, the saffron brigade has no hold, being offered to the AGP, the latter has once again decided to contest the Lok Sabha polls as an ally of the ruling party.
While, from the electoral as well as statistic-wise stand-point, its saffron master’s hold in the three constituencies – Dhubri, Barpeta and Kaliabor – allotted to the AGP had always been overwhelmingly on the losing side, it is anybody’s guess as to what may be in store for the party whose leaders signed the Assam Accord and forget it in no time.
As electoral engineering, both fair and foul, begins to ascend towards it speak, from its immediate look it appears if the last nail in the party’s coffin is formally awaited according to analysts.
Now that the AGP has virtually done nothing for even for the survival of regionalism in Assam, leave alone mobilization and consolidation of all regional forces, it is natural for certain local forces, groups and individuals of the State to look for alternative avenues for rejuvenation of regionalism after the same has been inflicted virtually a death blow by the AGP.
Meanwhile, seemingly, with a possible view to shifting the paradigm of regionalism to a wider base, a section of the people of Assam are seen to be exercising with the effort of giving birth to a broader form of regionalism encompassing the whole of the North-east.
By-passing the geographical limits of Assam, several political and non-political organizations, regional groups and individuals are already seemingly at work to initiate the emergence of a new brand of regionalism with strong base across the whole of the North-east.
On this count, the National People’s Party (NPP) led by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Kongkal Sangma has already gained significant ground in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh besides his home state of Meghalaya where the party is already in power.
So far as Assam is concerned, a large number of former AGP stalwarts and leaders of some regional bodies have formally and/or informally joined hands with the NPP.
This in turn has propelled Conrad Sangma to field NPP candidates in Aasam also for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
That being the political landscape emerging in the context of the present reality check, one may not be too far from the truth in stating that in due course the people of Assam and the Northeast may start understanding the concept of regionalism from the stand-point of the north-eastern region.
While the year 2018 witnessed the clear intention of the BJP of making the Northeast the hub of Hindu Bangladeshi nationals by ensuring their flow from Bangladesh and according them citizenship with a view to creating a permanent vote bank of the saffron party in the region by converting the obnoxious, extra-constitutional and anti-Northeast Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 (CAB) into an Act, the massive protest by millions against the Bill across the north-eastern states had the effect of bringing the people of the region together.
Whereas, the greatest threat to their very extinction faced by the people of the region is the CAB, which the BJP chief Amit Shah has announced would be re-introduced in the Parliament if voted to power. It is natural that the anti-CAB forces join hands and stand as one against any sinister design of any force or party to dump crores of Hindu Bangladeshis in the region, while converting the indigenous people into refugees on their native soil.
Likewise, it is natural for the indigenous populace of the north-eastern region to consider the designers and the supporters (direct or indirect) of the CAB as living threats to the sons and daughters of the soil.
On this count it is clear as daylight as to which party or group is on which side of the CAB. Gimmicks apart, with the AGP being hand in glove with the BJP in the electoral battle for the ensuing Lok Sabha polls, it is clear as daylight as to where the so called regional party actually stands.
Be that as it may, the ground reality is that the AGP brand of regionalism has virtually turned into a thing of the past in Assam. With the CAB hanging like a Sword of Damocles overhead the people of the Northeast, it is only a Northeast brand of regionalism that can prove to be the saviour of the indigenous people of the region from imminent extinction threat posed by the CAB and its masterminds.
With the landscape of regionalism apparently widening, will Conrad Konkal Sangma ultimately become the messiah of regionalism and the people of the Northeast?