GUWAHATI, March 11 � Traditionally, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) does better when the Lok Sabha polls are held along with the Assembly polls. But the performance of the regional party goes down when the Parliamentary elections are held separately, and the party drew a blank even when the AGP was in power in Assam.
According to records available with the Election Commission (EC) website, immediately after its formation in 1985, riding a popular wave, the AGP managed to win six Lok Sabha seats when the elections were held simultaneously with the Assembly polls. That remains the best ever performance by the AGP in Lok Sabha elections. During that time, the AGP managed to win seats like Barpeta and Jorhat, which are considered traditional strongholds of the Congress.
In the late 1980s, the AGP became a partner of the National Front Government headed by VP Singh and Dinesh Goswami became the Union Law Minister.
But though the Parliamentary and Assembly elections were held together in 1991, the AGP managed to win only one seat, mainly because of a strong anti-incumbency factor, while the division in the ranks of the party and the formation of the Natun Asom Gana Parishad (NAGP) by stalwarts like Bhrigu Kumar Phukan and Dinesh Goswami also affected the performance of the party.
In 1996, the State Assembly and Parliamentary polls were again held together in Assam and the AGP managed to win Lok Sabha seats, while the party, along with the Left parties, also regained power in the State. Immediately after the polls, the AGP became a partner of the United Front Government, first headed by DH Deve Gowda and then by IK Gujral and Birendra Prasad Baishya became the Union Steel Minister, while Muhiram Saikia became a Union Minister of State.
But since then, the Parliamentary and Assembly elections have never been held together in Assam and the performance of the AGP has also dwindled. Interestingly, the AGP failed to win even a single Lok Sabha seat in the 1998 and 1999 polls, despite the fact that the AGP was in power during that time. In the 2004 polls, the AGP managed to win two seats, while in 2009, the AGP managed to win only one seat despite having an electoral alliance with the BJP. In fact, in the 2009 polls, the BJP benefitted more from the alliance and won four seats by getting 16.21 per cent of votes, while the AGP managed to win only one by receiving only 14.6 per cent of the valid votes.
Commenting on the phenomenon, AGP general secretary Dr Kamala Kalita admitted that the regional party is always in a better position when the Parliamentary and Assembly polls are held together. He said that normally the workers of the regional parties take the Assembly elections more seriously, while the voters also know that a regional party cannot form a government at the Centre. He said that the second major reason is that when the elections are held simultaneously, the Lok Sabha candidates do not have to campaign all over their constituencies as the candidates of the Assembly constituencies do their job.
Dr Kalita said that another major problem for a party like the AGP is that it cannot give logistic and financial support to the candidates of the Lok Sabha polls as is done by the national parties.