GUWAHATI, Oct 15 � Prominent intellectuals and experts today called upon the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) leadership to indulge in self-criticism, reform the party and expand its base once again to re-emerge as the prominent standard bearer of the regional aspiration.
During the concluding day of the party's National Political Convention, speaker after speaker from different fields highlighted the blunders committed by the party during its three decades of existence and urged a drastic overhaul in its thinking and policy implementation to ensure that it does not fade away from the political arena of the State.
Speaking on the occasion, noted critic and thinker Dr Hiren Gohain said that the relevance of 'regionalism' has not diminished with passage of time and has in fact grown as national parties, notably Congress and BJP, have failed to fulfill the aspirations of the masses.
�I had not supported the Assam Agitation but even during the period when the agitation was on I had realized its strength and significance,� he said.
Dr Gohain said that while AGP had tried to carry out reforms within the party also, such efforts had failed.
�Even change in leadership did not improve the situation. Nothing changed at the grass-roots level. If a party fails to carry forward the aspirations of the people, it fails as a party,� he said, adding that the seniors in AGP need to guide the younger generation and give them more responsibility.
Dr Gohain said a lot of doubt has arisen regarding the very existence of the indigenous people of the State and said concrete political and social actions, and not mere words, are necessary to unite the people.
�We need to broaden the definition of indigenous people. We need the participation and consent of all communities in a democratic manner to take forward the struggle of the indigenous people,� he said.
He lamented the fact that AGP has failed to organize strong movements with regard to big dams and rampant inflation to force the government to mend its ways.
�Who is the leader is not important. What is important is for whom the leadership is working,� Dr Gohain said.
He said the party's failure to implement concrete policies resulted in it losing the support of the masses with passage of time and asked the party leadership to implement radical changes to transform itself and regain the support of the people of Assam.
Dr Nani Gopal Mahanta of the Department of Political Science of Gauhati University, said that in successive Lok Sabha polls the vote share of regional political parties have risen in recent years and such parties are dominant in many states including Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, among others.
Mahanta said that Congress did not solve any of the structural problems of Assam like flood, NRC update and issues of tea workers, while BJP as a party mainly depends on defectors from other parties.
�So there is relevance of AGP as a third force in Assam. AGP has a base at the grass-roots, unlike the BJP� he said.
Giving an analysis of the 126 Assembly constituencies of Assam, Mahanta said that with hard work the party can win at least 39 seats.
In his elaborate speech, public activist Prof Deven Dutta said, �If Congress is the devil, then BJP is the monster.�
Dutta said that a major reason for the downfall of AGP was because the party never tried to build a 'think tank' consisting of experts in diverse fields.
�The party never had proper policies with regard to agriculture, industry, inter-state relations, education, forest and environment, trade and commerce and so on,� he said.
Prafulla Hafila of the All Dimasa Students� Union said that the State has witnessed a drastic change in its demography in recent decades and there is a need for a united and aggressive struggle by the indigenous communities.
He lamented the fact that Dimsas and other ethnic communities never got any benefits during the two terms of AGP regime in Dispur.
�Yet, we still firmly believe that all communities in Assam have to stand united,� Hafila said.