Nalbari/Guwahati, Nov. 26: The Opposition AGP will field 85 per cent new faces in the panchayat elections, likely to be held early next year, to give the party a much-needed facelift in a bid to reconnect with its support base.
"We have decided to give a minimum of 85 per cent tickets to young workers in the ensuing panchayat election," AGP president and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta said in his 20-minute speech at a well-attended ganachetana (people's awareness) rally at Nalbari town this afternoon.
The party, which launched its monthlong ganachetana rally today, plans to hold similar rallies at Bongaigaon, Nagaon, Darrang and other places till December 24.
New faces have become important for the AGP because most party leaders belong to the 1985-vintage, the year the party was formed.
Lashing out at the Congress-led government over price rise, corruption and "insecurity" of Indian citizens, he said, "The people know that the Congress government has not done anything for Assam, its land and people. So, the people of Assam will stand with us in the election. We are sure to win the maximum number of seats".
He exhorted party leaders and workers to ensure that the people's mood is reflected in the panchayat poll outcome.
With an eye on the future, the party has also decided to contest on its own and field candidates in all the panchayats, AGP spokesperson Lachit Bordoloi told The Telegraph in Guwahati.
Today's declarations convey the importance the AGP is attaching to the rural polls. Mahanta's speech indicated that the party would make every effort to usher in change at the grassroots to send the right signals to party supporters who have been only witnessing the party's free fall since being ousted by the Congress in 2001. The AGP has lost every election, including three straight Assembly and two panchayat polls, since then, despite changes in leaderships and mergers of breakaway factions. The free fall saw the 2005-born AIUDF replace the AGP as the principal Opposition party after the 2011 Assembly elections.
"Changes at the grassroots are important because only then we can reconnect with our supporters. It is more important than winning," a party leader said. The polls will be a big challenge for Mahanta as it will be his first after regaining party presidentship in May this year.
At the rally, Mahanta dwelt on pressing issues of price rise, corruption, "insecurity" of Indian citizens under the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government, which he alleged was misguiding youths.
"The Assam government is spreading gossip about development. The Congress always practises divide-and-rule policy. Earlier, it did politics in the name of hills and plains people and now it is doing politics in the name of Upper and lower Assam," he said.
Mahanta also said the AGP would honour the March 24, 1971 cut-off date for deporting foreigners as incorporated in the 1985 Assam Accord.
Those who have come after this date, irrespective of their religion, would be deported, he said, adding that the party would continue to oppose the Indo-Bangladesh land-swap deal.
Mahanta's predecessor Chandra Mohan Patowary and incumbent working president Atul Bora also slammed the Gogoi government while asserting that the AGP was united.
"The Congress returned to power for the third term in 2011 by highlighting the secret killings issue. The Congress government even promised to arrest the secret killers. But so far it has failed to do so. Chief minister Gogoi recently expressed helplessness in this regard. The government has also made light of the foreigners problem," Patowary said.