After being marginalised by the Congress government, AASU is back at centre stage. On Monday, it accepted the Mahanta government's invitation for talks on September 14. The deliberations will no doubt be influenced by the extent of the AASU's impact on September 13, when it begins an agitation with a 12-hour state-wide bandh.
Explains an AGP leader: The AGP cannot ignore the AASU since we were part of the student organisation. We should at least make a pretence of giving the AASU some public importance even though the students body might have ceased to have the same influence in the state. The student body, which held a pre-eminent position in the state in the early eighties on the issue of foreign nationals, had been considerably marginalised during the Congress government led by Hiteswar Saikia before the April elections. It is using the upcoming by-elections to resume its high profile role.
Byelections are to be held to five seats: Nazira, Dispur, Margherita, Nagaon and Dergaon. Saikia, who passed away on the eve of the April elections, had filed his nomination from Nazira and Dispur while Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta, who won from Koliabor and Nagaon, has given up the Nagaon seat.
The ground on which the AASU has opposed the byelections is that the electoral rolls continue to be faulty and are full of foreign nationals. Unless a fresh revision is carried out, no elections would be allowed to be held, the AASU has threatened.
AASU leaders have announced a series of agitational programmes from September 13, including the burning of effigies of the three election commissioners. The leaders contend that despite the Election Commission's assurance to them, the rolls had not been revised.
This will be the first time the AASU would test its support base after its low-key role during the Saikia regime. AGP leaders' conciliatory efforts have so far been spurned by the AASU, but the former claim in private that the threat would pose no problem in holding the byelections.
The byelection is crucial for senior AGP leader Atul Bora, the public works minister, who was a candidate in the Dispur constituency. He has to get elected to the House within six months. He has dismissed the AASU threat by saying that it will not affect the byelection.