By– Priyankan Goswami
Right from the day when the Assam Assembly elections were declared, one could see daily debates and reports in all newspapers from the state on the issue of regionalism in Assam. With the biggest trumpet blowers of regionalism of the state, The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) losing away to Congress (I) with a landslide defeat, the future of regionalism looks dull to a many.
The reason why AGP lost or Congress (I) won is actually different from the issue of regionalism in the state. The AGP has lost mostly because of its own mistakes in the past. The congress (I) has won not because it did a great job, but because people considered it less bad compared to AGP, in all of the last three assembly elections.
The leadership of AGP lacked the trust or example they should have led, as evident by the embarrassing defeats of their biggest names. Further the party had failed to reach out to the people of the state from all levels. For a party to change or revive the politics of power, it is very important to understand first the deep rooted feelings of the public and then march-forward from strength to strength. With AGP, it was not seen during its role as an opposition throughout the last decade.
There has been claims already from the pro-Congress (I) lot that Congress has now been able to further the nationalistic approach and have managed to kill the politics of regionalism. However, one does not need to scratch his head out for realizing that politics of regionalism can survive and win, – from the example of states like Tamil Nadu.
In Tamil Nadu, the politics of regionalism has not only survived but destroyed Congress (I) and the likes each time, unlike Assam or AGP. Tamil Nadu, like Assam complaints of discrimination and step motherly treatment of the centre, the Hindi lobby and history of injustice. The difference between regionalism politics of Assam and Tamil Nadu lies, however in the attitude. In Assam, the AGP kept on blaming the centre every time for providing lesser funds, low financial budget and lack of schemes. On the other hand, Tamil Nadu saw their regional party not depending on the centre but starting their own process for self-independence as a state.
They developed strongly a culture of entrepreneurship both at large and small scale level, with technical education being its back bone. It set up revolutionary schemes to bring in investment flowing into the state. With one of the highest number of technical institutes in the country and by policies such as the provision to start a new company in 41 days, single window clearance, etc .the state was able to attract and bring in investments of over 100,000 crores in its different industries. The amount of jobs generated out of this boom was phenomenal and the state was actually not able to keep up with the rate of growth! Schemes which Himanta Biswa Sharma recently announce in his new portfolio of education were actually propagated much earlier in Tamil Nadu, with the state already boasting of a school every 1 km! That too, was by the regionalism party and not by the centre or congress.
AGP, on the other hand was quick to propagate entrepreneurship during its agitation days before 1985 in the name of Swawalambi (Self-Independent). However during its tenure, it failed to develop any sort of entrepreneurship or bring in investment which could solve the issue of joblessness and economic development of the region. The story of cry wolf (by blaming the centre again and again) was repeated over and again.
If AGP wants to revive its days back in actual, it is a must for them to start afresh, with new leadership and from the people. It must create a big level forum, a Jatiya Mahaxobha(National Convocation) involving people from all regional groups, students unions, civil societies and intellectuals and try and learn what the future plan should be. The party have to listen to the opinions and criticism of the people, something they rarely did in the past, and reconcile in itself. Improvement needs assessment (INA) has to be done deep with to the lowest of the level. Major modes of their failures have to be eradicated, including termination or retirement of most of the leaders whom the people have denied. It needs to go back to the villages where the roots of regionalism lies, understand real issues and schemes required and bring the trust. Although it is too early to forecast how things would turn out, AGP probably needs to take an example from the pro-talk section of ULFA the way they have been trying to re-form their base and strength by interacting with the people from all areas of the state. However if AGP can not even do this and continues the way they have been operating till now, under the disabled leadership of the same names and dictatorship of same thought process, they better call for a state level meeting and call their party off forever.