Volume I Number I February (2012) pp. 169-75   The Clarion    ISSN : 2277-1697

Different Paradigm on Factional Politics: Reference to Asom Gana Parishad

Dipak Kumar Sarma

Research Scholar, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, Assam

Email: [email protected]


The paper is a theoretical exploration to the field of factional politics. It is a discussion on definitional issues of factionalism along with practical references to the scenario throughout the world.  References have been made to factional politics in India, especially that in Assam in order to discover new paradigm in that area. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) a regional political party in Assam has been taken as a case study. The study is based on secondary data sources and historical approach is applied to analyze the facts of factional politics in Assam. 

In a nutshell, factional politics differs according to geographical, demographic and historical conditions. Factionalism in developing nations is more intense than that of in the developed ones. The societies with diverse ethnic groups like that in Assam, nurture more contentious politics which results in loose political organization building is a fertile ground for factional politics.

Keywords: Factionalism, political mobilization and articulation, ethnicity and identity politics, leadership crisis, political support base.

1. Introduction

1.1 After the 2nd World War many colonies of Asia and Africa got independence. These aspiring new members of the world community had many issues to address immediately viz., socio-economic development, political and national consolidation etc. People of the respective countries began to look at the State as Mai-Baap (all encompassing state). New constitutions were promulgated with novel objectives of welfare state, socio-economic equality, liberty and freedom for amelioration of the teeming millions. But only a few countries have succeeded to achieve these aims partially. The shortcomings were inherent in the very nature of the society of the respective nations. Most of the Constitutions vowed to build up Democratic Republic through free and fare election process. But substantive democracy remained a day dream and procedural democracy hijacked the noble objectives of true democracy. Society and value system remained medieval and undemocratic. The reason might be; the colonial legacies, education, administration continued and state failed to bring sustainable change. Almond and Powel has rightly observed that expectations on the part of the people were high and capability of the state was low, which resulted in frustration at many levels. Therefore, many newly emerging countries became ‘failed state’. Inequalities widened, disproportionate wealth and resources at certain pockets made the people to feel ‘relatively deprived’. Corruption was reaching the pick point and ‘social capital’ curve took down-ward direction. In many countries, military ruler took over the administration and natural political process was halted. Pakistan, Myanmar, Libya, Indonesia and many African nations fall to the evil of military dictatorship. The ‘dependency theory’ of Egyptian economist Samir Amin may help to understand this dilemma of reverse development. Amin propounded the view that ‘resources flow from a "periphery" of poor and underdeveloped states to a "core" of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former’, is the main reason behind the economic and socio-political instability in the developing countries. . It is a central contention of dependency theory that poor states are impoverished and rich ones enriched; by the way poor states are integrated into the "world system." The fact that many developed countries patronized the military rule in the natural resource rich developing countries to continue the plunder is enough to suffice the argument of ‘dependency theory’.

1.2 All the developing countries had to fight hard to cope with the transition process after independence in 20th century. The process of nationality formation in these geographically and ethnically diverse countries was full of antagonism. For example in India, nationalism and national interest failed to unite different ethnic and language communities. Regionalism came to the fore as a political force against nationalism. It was at the same time a bane and a boon. Because, regionalism on one hand, helped the neglected regions and communities to make the centre hear their demands; hence opened up new scope for true federation in India. On the other hand, the extreme form of regionalism became hindrance to national security and development. At times, the ‘regionalism turned secessionism’ became an industry of exploitation and extortion. Thus, the vicious cycle of pauperization of the teeming million continued.

2. Assam, Assamese and Regional Polity

2.1 Assam is small state in the North Eastern part of India (78438 km2), home for many ethnic communities having different culture, language and community organizations. The ethnic identity and culture run through the vein of people of Assam. The ethnic mosaic of the state is supplanted by rich natural resources, river system and scenic beauty. Yet Assam is a poor state. The reason-some might attribute to the negligence of the Centre, some to the geographical condition and other to the crisis of leadership in political arena. Whatever it is, people of Assam have suffered. This has resulted in people’s movements against the state authority for better development, e.g., the refinery movement, language movement, and movement for food and finally the Assam Movement of 1979 to 1985. The Assam Movement, most prominent one brought the state to standstill for six long years. The motto of the movement was to drive out the foreigners from Assam, i. e., the Bangladeshi immigrants. The All Assam Student Union (ASSU), Assam Gana Sangram Parishad, Assam Jatiyotabadi Yava Chatra Parishad (AJYCP), Purbanchaliyo Loka Parishad(PLP), Assam Sahitya Sabha held the steering wheel of the movement, backed by many intellectual of Assam. The incessant influx from across the border and the lack of political will to check it made the people revolutionary. All the ethnic communities supported the movement by heart. As fallout of the movement the Assam Accord was signed in 1985 and a new regional political party, namely; Assam Gana Parishad (AGP) was formed under the stewardship of Prafulla Mahanta as the President and Bhrigu kumar Phukan as the General Secretary.  AGP won the Assembly election in 1983 and formed the government in Assam. Prafulla Kr. Mahanta became the Chief Minister. People had great expectation but the new government failed to deliver up to that. In the mean time the extremist wing of the Assamese nationalists youth formed an underground separatist organization; United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA). This group rose to the occasion and started to enjoy popular support. The AGP government also failed to keep the small ethnic groups under the same umbrella of Assamese Nation. The Bodo people started agitating for separate state.  Other ethnic groups also directed their grievances toward the negligence of the State government. Movement for ‘autonomous state’ was started in the Karbi Angong and North Cacher Hills by Autonomous State Demand Committee (ASDC). All these led to the downfall of AGP in 1991 election. But the main reason behind was the failure was intra-party conflict on personal basis, lack of organizational strength and trust deficiency upon the leadership. Because of factionalism in AGP, the NAGP was formed in 1991. In 1996 though the party again came to power, Atul Bora faction split away from the party and formed Trinamul Gana Parishad. The government again failed meekly. The allegations of secret killing, inability to pay salary to the government employees and rampant corruption defeated AGP in 2001. During this time an attempt was there within the party to isolate the former Chief Minister Prafull Mahanta. Mahanta on his own frayed a new political party; Asom Gana Parishad-Progressive (AGP-P) and contested election. Since then, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) the main opposition political party and the icon of regionalism in Assam have keep on defeated on three consecutive times  in 2001, 2004 and 2011. In 2011 Assembly election, AGP could get only 10 seats. Many political observers have opined it as a death nail to the coffin of the regional political party. Asom Gana Parishad provides a scope for study on the factional aspect of political parties in modern democracy, the reason behind factional split and the modus-operandi of factional politics.

3. Defining Factionalism

3.1 Factionalism is hard to define. Many political thinkers like Samuel Johnson, James Madison used the term ‘faction’ more or less as a synonym to political party but with opprobrious sense, conveying the imputation of selfish or mischievous ends or turbulent or unscrupulous methods. Madison in his ‘Tenth Instalment of the Federalist Papers’ defines a faction as "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a minority or majority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." In plain English this is a group that pursues self interest at the expense of the common good. However, this definition lacks a holistic view. Political parties in modern democracies are formed in order to articulate the people’s interest; otherwise they won’t be able to win elections. And even a faction within the political party may have appeal of the general interest. Therefore, we cannot define political faction only in opprobrious sense. As we talk about intra-party democracy, healthy faction also may strengthen the political party indirectly. One glaring example is the Vallabhbhai Patel faction in Congress in India during the days of Jawaharlal Nehru.

3.2 A political faction is a grouping of individuals, such as political party or trade union or other group with a political purpose. A faction or political party may include fragmented sub-factions, “parties within a party," which may be referred to as power blocs, or voting blocs. The individuals within a faction are united in a common goal or set of common goals. They band together as a way of achieving these goals and advancing their agenda and position within an organization. Factions are not limited to political parties; they can and frequently do form within any group that has some sort of political aim or purpose.

3.3 Another definition says that, faction is a group of persons forming a cohesive, usually contentious minority within a larger group. Faction depicts conflict within an organization or nation. It is internal dissension; it may occur due to a personal clash or ideological cliff. The reason of factionalism in CPI in 1964 was ideological. But the same with the DMK party in Tamil Nadu is mostly personal clash of interest of the leaders.

3.4 Paul R. Brass in his book ‘Factional Politics in an Indian State: the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh’ examined the impact of internal factionalism upon the ability of the Congress to deal effectively with the diverse forces in its environment. Concentrating on the North Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, the book analyses the problems of party organization at the local and district levels, where modern politics and the traditional society met. In the districts, the Congress then had to deal with such forces as Hindu-Muslim tension, conflict and alliance between castes, and the continuing influence of ex-landlords in the countryside. He argues that political faction arises when self regarding interest overwhelms the other regarding interests. In a nutshell, factional politics is the articulation of political interest-of majority or minority group- within a organized party structure, with a view to promote the desired end, either through exerting pressure upon the parent organization or by forming a new political party.

4. Philosophical Dimensions of Factionalism

4.1 It is even impossible for every human being to be essentially "non-political" since we are, according to Aristotle, “political animals.” Many political philosophers; right from the days of the ‘Greek Polis state’ have dealt with the problems of governance and revolution in the state. Examples may be cited of Kautilya, Aristotle and Machiavelli and others who discussed at length the causes of internal dissention or revolution and the measures to pacify it. With the march of democratic polity along the concept of nation state and nationality, the party system and party politic have emerged as the best means to sustain the ideology of democracy and to contain social contradictions. According to liberal tradition of thought factionalism is inevitable within the democratic political party, because the parties provide a platform to the diverse and contradictory groups in the civil society to ventilate their causes. Therefore, factional rivalry and contradictions are the necessary evils to strengthen democracy. On the other hand, the Marxist school of thought denounce the factional element in political parties. There is no place for factionalism within the vanguard party. Marxist school believes in the existence of only two classes; capitalists and proletariats in society. The vanguard political party representing the proletariats do not tolerate factional conflict.  Small groups and diverse interests are tabbed as reactionary. According to Marxism, the Socialist revolutions would ensue in classless society eliminating the capitalists and there would be no need for political party either. As such factionalism occurs only in the Bourgeoisie democracy and bourgeoisie party system which promotes the vested interests of the capitalists.

4.2 There is another dimension of factionalism. The Civil War of England in the 17th century and that of the USA in the 18th century was an outcome of factionalism on national scale. Even during the Indian freedom struggle, factional ideology emerged and dominated the political scenario. The ideological differences of B R Ambedkar and M K Gandhi, M A Jinnah and J Nehru, Subhash Basu and Gandhi are some evidences.  As such factionalism may occur on national scale irrespective of a political party system. The mushrooming of the political parties in India in post independence period is a development resulted on the superstructure, whereas the factional issue and factional politics operates quietly in the infrastructure. From the developments in the Third world countries;  where politics operates quite differently from that of the developed nations, we can churn out a third world perspective of factionalism as well. Political articulation and socialization on primitive sentimental agenda, like caste, religion, etc make the political parties victim of factionalism in the Third world countries.

5. Factional Politics in Different parts of the World

5.1 “Our own beloved country..... is now afflicted with faction and civil war”(Abraham Lincoln).  Lincoln while addressing his fellow citizens of USA indicates that faction is internal dissention within a nation. All nations have faced factional war in one or other time in history. But in modern developed nations; in mature democracies like UK, USA, Russia, France etc there are hardly any instances of factional politics. (e.g., Hillary Clinton was a political contender to Barack Obama. But after the presidential election Obama invited Clinton to head the most prestigious portfolio, Secretary of States. In Russia, former President Vladimir Putin agreed to be the Prime Minister under new President Dmitry Medvedev). Factionalism is more intense in the developing countries of Asia and Africa. Because, the political system is immature and political socialization and articulation does not happens in rational terms.

5.2 Muslim League, the oldest political party in Pakistan is reeling under factional conflict. In fact, the whole country has seen ethnic and sectarian conflict making the functioning of all political parties measurable. After all, story the failure of Pakistani democracy begins and ends with factional politics. In Iran, the post Khomeini period, especially after the landslide victory of President Mohammad Khatami and the ensuing struggle between reformers and the entrenched conservative religionists is factional politics.  Competing ideologies and practical issues versus a sometimes dangerous conflict have been a day to day course in Iran now a day. Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Kenya and many African nations are also feeling the heat of factional politics.

6. Factional Politics in India

6.1 The problem of factionalism in Congress party can be traced back to 1948, after the death of Gandhi, when dissenting parties within Congress (such as the Congress Socialist Party) was banned by Patel’s constitutional amendment. The Congress became more like a streamlined political party in its operation-dissent was driven underground. This position remains stable in the first decade of independence, as political success often came about as a proven loyalty to the charismatic ‘tall men’ and party leaders such as Nehru. However, in the absence of well-developed opposition, and before parliament itself provided effective instrument for the ventilation of grievances and the crystallisation of dissident opinion, the Congress party had to perform these functions after the independence. The Freedom Movement too inevitably produced factional divisions in Indian society. The defeat of Congress in 1967 election is attributed to factionalism. Many of the opposition leaders who formed government in the states were dissident leaders of the Congress themselves. There had been an ongoing conflict between the ‘ministerial’ and ‘organizational’ wing of Congress party as well. At a local level, congressmen aimed to seek popular support not only to win election but also to strengthen their positions viz. a viz. other factions within Congress. On some issues Chief Ministers had to fight hard against the centre-regardless of party loyalty-in order to shore up local support. In the 1980 factionalism in Congress had become all-pervasive. Indira Gandhi’s centralising and authoritarian tendencies had caused strain on federal consensus and factions have developed around social class, regional diversity, modern and traditional values and simple personal ambition-described by Banfield as ‘amoral familism’. The Congress experience has shown that ‘one dominant party system’ with no major threat from other parties is a breeding ground for factional rivalry in politics.

6.2 Among the other national political parties Communist party of India (CPI) have tasted factionalism. A serious rift within the party surfaced in 1962. One reason was the Sino-Indian War, where a faction of the Indian communists backed the position of the Indian Government, while other sections of the party claimed that it was a conflict between a socialist and a capitalist state, and thus took a pro-Chinese position. There were three factions in the party - "internationalists", "centrists", and "nationalists". Ideological differences lead to the split in the party in 1964 when two different party conferences were held, one of CPI and one of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M). There is a common misconception that the rifts during Sino-Indian war lead to the 1962 split. In fact, the split was leftists vs. rightists, rather than internationalists vs. nationalists. After this the communist bloc was again divided during the time of the Naxalbari Movement in the 1970s when the Communist Party of India-Marxist-Leninist (CPI-ML) was formed.

6.3 Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(DMK) of Tamil Nadu is a noted regional political party in South India, which faced the brunt of factionalism in 1969, when party general secretary and founder CN Annadurai died. After his death, there came the power tussle between M Karunanidhi and V R Nedunchezhiyan. Karunanidhi succeeded sidelining Nedunchezhiyan, the most senior leader after Anna and became the Chief Minister. In 1972 the political feud between M G Ramachandran (MGR) and the party president Karunanidhi emerged. MGR called for a boycott of the party's General Council. With the crisis falling into call for corruption probe by MGR, he was eventually suspended from the General Council. Thus emerged a new political party All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(AIADMK). In 1977, DMK lost the Assembly elections to MGR's AIADMK, and stayed out of power in the state till 1989. After MGR's death in December 1987, AIADMK split into two factions between Janaki (MGR's wife) and Jayalalithaa, paving way for DMK in 1989. Jayalalithaa emerged as unchallenged leader of AIADMK. Since then these two parties; DMK and AIADMK have shared the political power alternatively in Tamil Nadu. 

6.4 Shiromani Akali Dal(Akali Dal) is a Sikh nationalist political party based in Punjab. The basic philosophy of Akali Dal is to give political voice to Sikh issues (panthic cause) and it believes that religion and politics go hand in hand. The current party recognized by Election Commission of India is the one led by Prakash Singh Baadal. The Akali Dal has splintered into numerous groups, such as Shiromani Akali Dal (Democratic) led by Sardar Kuldip Singh Wadala, Shiromani Akali Dal (Longowal) founded on principles of late Sardar Harchand Singh Longowal, former President of the original Shiromani Akali Dal, Shiromani Akali Dal (Simranjit Singh Mann) also known as Shiromani Akali Dal (Amritsar), Shiromani Akali Dal (UK), Shiromani Akali Dal Delhi, Haryana State Akali Dal, a splinter group based in a neighbouring state, Haryana etc.

7. Asom Gana Parishad (AGP): Trajectory of Factional politics in Assam

7.1 Why AGP have failed as a regional political party? The primary reason to my mind is factionalism. Since its advent AGP has been split thrice. Even within the party in normal condition, there are splinter groups operating on personal and parochial agenda. Each leader along with a handful of supporters acts as a faction. General public interests hardly surface as the leitmotif of these factions. Therefore it is a matter of research, why a regional political party with such a vibrant popular support is ridden with factionalism. Is it the lack of ideological strength or political organization; visionary leader or destiny? The AGP was formally constituted in the year 1985 in Golaghat, in the aftermath of the signing of Assam Accord  to end the six year long Assam Movement to drive out the foreigners from Assam. After the independence, Indian State due to its engagement with the consolidation process could not pay sufficient attention towards the peripheral states like Assam. This is one of the main reasons of the regional disparity in economic development in India after the independence. Infrastructure development in North Eastern States was further lessened after the Sino-Indian War. Of the record it is said that the Delhi lobby had a fear that China might attack again and infrastructural development will help the enemy. After the Bangladesh war in 1971 large number of refugees came to Assam at the auspices of Central government and after the conclusion of the war Central Government did not do anything to return those illegal refugees. In fact, illegal influx to Assam continued unabated backed by political interests. These people threatened to change the demographic profile and there was a tension among the indigenous people in Assam that one day they might lose the political power to the numerically growing immigrants. Along with these factors, the language movement, the movement for food and the refinery movements made the ground fertile for the grand Assam Movement in 1979. Moreover, during this period the left ideology and activities was going on in Assam in full swing in the cultural and political arena. Some observers try to see the Assam Movement as a conspiracy of the ‘rightists’ to avert a possible social revolution. This is partially evident from the fact that the trade union leaders and intellectuals, who were critical about the Assam Movement, were attacked and even killed in the name of being communist.  As such the ground for the new political party in Assam i.e. the AGP was filled with contradictions in the 1980s. Whatsoever, the party won the Assembly election in 1985 with handsome figures and formed the Government in Assam. But the symptoms of factionalism surfaced even before the election. The leaders were quite young and they hardly valued the wisdom of the veteran leaders and political observers. Personal clash and groupism became inevitable within the party.

7.2 Factional politics within AGP surface more prominently at the time of contesting the Assembly election and for the Lok Sabha in 1985 when the elders were fielded in the Lok Sabha seats and the young and inexperienced were given tickets to contest from the Assembly constituencies. Muhikanta Saikia, Paragdhar Chaliha, Dinesh Goswami, Dr. Nagen Saikia were such veteran leaders who were not allowed to contest in Assembly election. These leaders were capable of good administration in the State. In fact this was a deliberate effort to make place for the young goons of the party. The party in opposition i.e. the Congress, and its leaders was shrewd and veteran people. Now a day, even the AGP leaders express that the element of factionalism in AGP was an agenda of the Congress and the centrist parties, to make the regional force weak.

7.3 In 1991 just before the Assembly election, dissident AGP leader Dinesh Goswami formed a new political party Natun Asom Gana Parishad(NAGP). Bhrigu kumar Phookan and Pulakesh Baruah were the other prominent AGP Leader who joined the party. The reason of the split was personal rift between the leaders. These two parties contested elections separately resulting in the defeat of AGP. Congress again came to power. AGP Government failed to fulfil the aspirations of the Assamese people, it was corruption ridden. The failure in governance also had some impact upon the split of 1991. It is interesting to see that all the three leaders forming the NAGP belonged to upper caste brahmine. So, one can presume that caste factor and caste rivalry might have occurred within AGP.

7.4 In 1996, due to the anti-incumbency factor against the Hiteswar Saikia government paved the way for AGP. People voted the party again to the power. But intra-party conflict and rift continued in AGP. Atul Borah one of the prominent founder leader frayed another political party-Trinamul Gana Parishad(TGP). During this period the ULFA increased its activity of extortion and the so called War against the Indian State. The public life was in disarray. The allegations of Secret Killing and Fodder Scam against Chief Minister Prafulla Mahanta made the factional clash an open drama. AGP lost the 2001 election. The factional conflicts in AGP further increased. There was attempt within the party to isolate Mahanta, who on his own came out of AGP with handful of supporters and organized a new party Asom Gana Parishad-Progressive (AGP-P). Both AGP and AGP (P) frayed in the 2006 election separately and faced defeat. After lot of discussion and deliberations, all factions merged with AGP before the 2011 election. But clash of leadership continued. Brindaban Goswami and Pulakesh Baruah were isolated deliberately to deny them leadership status. Rivalry between Prafulla Mahanta and Chandramohan Patowary for chief ministerial berth became Page3 news. It was interesting that former Public Works department (PWD) Minister Atul Bora also nursed ambition of becoming Chief Minister, which he stated in an interview to a Guwahati daily that he had the competence to be Chief Minister and would not shirk that responsibility if he was called upon to take it up. He also alleged that Prafulla Mahanta was involved in the Rs.200-crore Letter of Credit (LoC) scam (Frontline, January 23, 1998). On many occasions, AGP’s seat adjustments before the election did not improve its tally, as its allies were influential only in small pockets in Assam. For example, its alliance with the left parties in the past not looked by the hardcore supporters as beneficial election strategy. Even the overt and covert alliance with the national political party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and seat sharing has been proved unproductive which further impacted the factional conflict. This had given an edge to the Congress party indirectly. This shows that AGP failed to contain factional rivalry tactfully by appealing to the dormant political desire of hitherto unrepresented social forces to come under a large federal political umbrella. In 2011 election AGP could get only 10 seats and had to leave the place of main opposition party to AIUDF which have 18 MLAs in Assam Assembly. In this election even the otherwise insignificant parties like Trinnamul Congress and others have fared better than the AGP and its alley. The All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) have improved their tally and the Trinamool Congress has managed to open its account by winning one seat.

The primary factors within the party for this erosion of public support and factionalism can be summarized as follows –

(I) Poor fund (II) urban centric mobilization (III) crisis of leadership (IV) poor campaign (V) absence of strategies and think tank (VI) lack of strong organization and (VII)  the political upsurge of the ethnic groups among others.

9. The AGP Model of Factional Politics

9.1 The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) was not formed as cohesive political party though the background was provided by Assamese National sentiment for self-determination. It was a conglomeration of different socio-political organizations who took active part in the Assam Movement. The founders of the party had their root in All Assam Student Union (AASU), Asom Gana Sangram Parishad, Purbanchaliya Loka Parishad (PLP) among others. Though these organizations had unanimous working agenda of Assamese Nationalism, yet they differed in ideology and political support base. As such during the first Assembly election, AGP could enjoy support all over Assam. AGP had to give vent to the aspirations of all local leaders. This coalition nature of political articulation debarred AGP from having a High-command structure or leadership. In India, all regional parties having long success e.g. DMK, AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP) in Uttar Pradesh , Trinamul Congress in West Bengal have charismatic leadership. But the diverse and ethnicity based society of Assam have not allowed AGP to build a leadership on consensus.

9.2 Further analysis of this issue reveals that politics in Assam is more contentious than any other part of India. The upsurge of tribal elites on identity and ethnic line has challenged the concept of Assamese Nationalism. Even AGP itself has failed to define the boundaries of Assamese Nationalism, which was the backbone of its support base. Now the Assamese has different connotations. Some includes all people residing in Assam irrespective of caste, creed, language and ethnicity as Assamese. But the orthodox view would include only the indigenous people within the ambit of Assamese. There have occurred difference regarding the definition ‘indigenous’ as well. The term ‘aborigine’ has emerged to give fillip to the movement of political autonomy among the tribal populace in Assam. Now the tribal leaders give orientation to their demand for more autonomy in political, economic and cultural arena in the light of a vexed concept of domination by the Assamese. As a matter of fact the support base of AGP dwindled. During the initial years AGP leaders have failed to incorporate the hitherto unrepresented aspirations of the tribal people. Bodo and karbi leaders like Upendra Nath Brahma, Jayanta Rangpi, Holiram Terrang did not get representation in the Assembly or AGP ministry. This had repercussion in the form of agitation for political autonomy in Karbi-Anglong and Bodo dominated areas.

9.3 As such the ‘cosmetic political organization’, ‘lack of high-command’ and ‘contentious political culture’, these three factors have made AGP fragile for factional rift and split. The political organization of AGP was cosmetic because it was not well knit in to the political ground and highly urban centric. The leaders who participated in the formation of AGP in 1985 belonged to different organizations that had separate constitutions and agenda. These organizations continued to operate as before as power groups. This factor had loosened the organization of AGP leading to factionalism. Contentious politics encompasses a range of movement outcomes, from small scale protest demonstration to large scale violent rebellion. Ethnic rebellion is also a version of contentious politics. The march of ethnic and identity politics has made the regional appeal of AGP on the basis of Assamese nationalism irrelevant.   Thus the political splits in AGP cannot be simply termed as personal clash of interests as Paul Brass have theorized in his reference to Congress factions in Uttar Pradesh in the 1960s. An analysis of factionalism in AGP, without the reference of ethnic politics and identity issue is incomplete. The ethnic antagonism on the other hand is embedded in the British period, in the colonial process of administration. The terminology ‘tribal’ itself is a colonial construction rather than based on primordial ethnic sentiments in India.  Dwindling support base and organizational failure had also impacted upon fund raising which is an important factor of poor political campaign and strategy building.  Thus AGP has failed to woo the young people. Even student body like All Assam Student Union have opposed AGP leaders openly. The joining of Sarnanada Sonowal in BJP, one of the young leaders of AGP was apparently a result of factional rivalry within the leaders.

10. Conclusion

Though the leaders of AGP admit that the factional rivalry has cut their root in the political land of Assam, yet they seem to be unable to sacrifice their ego and self interests among other things. In place of soul searching and self rectification, the latest trend indicates sign of further internal factionalism. While the Congress party appears to have benefitted by tactful management of internal factionalism in their favour, the emergence of the Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) did cost the Congress a portion of immigrant Muslim votes, but the Congress regained its lost strength reasonably well by wooing Assamese-speaking Muslims and some Assamese-speaking Hindus who had earlier allied with the AGP and the BJP respectively. Thus the gains of the Congress were across all sections, making it a catch-all party in Assam. AGP has failed to play its role of strengthening democracy by being a strong opposition political party; because of which the trend in Assam is such that ‘democratic polity may turn into cult of majoritarianism’. The vicious cycle of factional politics has made the political future of Asom gana Parishdad (AGP) bleak.

Bibliography: (English)

Ahmed, A N S. et al (edited) 2006, Election Politics in Assam: Issues, Trends and People’s Mandate, Akansha Publishing House, New Delhi.

Ahmed, A N S. 2006. The National question in Assam: EPW 1980-81 debate. Akansha, New Delhi.

Barpujari, H.K., 2007, Comprehensive History of Assam, Vol. I.II, III, IV, V, and IV, Publication  Board of Assam, Guwahati

Baruah, Sanjib, 2000, Durable Disorder: Understanding the politics of North East India. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.

______1999, India against Itself: Politics Of nationality in Assam. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.

______(ed.), 2009, Beyond Counter Insurgency: Breaking the Impasse in North East India. Oxford University Press, New Delhi.

Brass, Paul R. 1966: Factional Politics in an Indian State: The Congress party in Uttar Pradesh, Oxford University Press, Bombay

______2001, Politics of India since Independence, Cambridge University Press,London.

______.1991, Ethnicity and Nationalism: Theory and Comparison,Sage publication, New Delhi

Chandhoke, Neera. 2000, State and Civil society: Explorations in  Political theory, Sage publication, New Delhi

Chandra Bipan. 2000, India After Independence 1947-2000, Penguin Books, New Delhi.

Chatterjee, Partha. 2007, State and Politics in India, Oxford, New Delhi

Chaubey, S.K. 1985, Electoral Politics in North East India, Madras University Press, Madras.

______1999,  Hill Politics in North East India, Orient Longman, New Delhi.

Das, Samir K. 2004, ULFA(United Liberation Front of Assam): A Political Analysis, Ajanta Publications, Delhi.

Dutta, P S. 1993,Autonomy Movements in Assam, Omson Publication, New Delhi.

Gohain, Hiren, 1973, Origin of the Assamese Middle Class, Social scientist, vol.2, no 1(August), pp.11-26.

Gossah, L. S. 1992, Regional Political parties in North East India, Omsons, New Delhi.

Goswami, Sandhya. 1997, Language Politics in Assam, Ajanta Publications, New Delhi.

Guha, Amalendu.1977,  Planter Raj to Swaraj: Freedom Struggle and Electoral Politics in Assam,1826-1947,Peopple’s Publishing House, New Delhi.

Held, David. Political Theory and the Modern State:Essays on State,Power and Democracy, World View/ Maya Polity.

Hussain, Manirul. 1995, The Assam Movement: Class, Ideology and Identity, Manak Publications, Delhi

Mill, John Stuart. 1962, Considerations on Representative Government, Henry Regnery Company, Chikago.

Mishra, Udayan. 2000, Periphery Strikes Back: The challenges to the Nation State in Assam and Nagaland, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Rastrapati Nivas, Shimla.

Mohanty, Manoranjan et al (edited) 1994, People’s Rights: Social Movements and the State in the Third World, Sage, New Delhi.

Pakem, B. 1997, Insurgency in North East India, Omson Publication, New Delhi.

Palmer, Norman D. 1976, Election and Political Development:The South Asian Experience, Vikas, New Delhi.

Phadnis, Urmila. 1990, Ethnicity and Nation Building in South Asia, Sage, New Delhi.

Phukan, Girin. 1984, Assam’s Attitude to Federalism, Sterling Publisher, Delhi

______2000,(edited) Political Dynamics of North East India, South Asian Publishers, New Delhi.

Saikia, Rajen. 2000, Social and Economic History of Assam, 1853-1921, Manohar, New Delhi.

Sharma, M. 1990, Social and Economic Change in Assam: Middle Class Hegemony, Delhi

Smith, B.C. Understanding Third World Politics:Theries of Political Change and Development, Macmillan, New Delhi.

Tandon, Rajesh and Ranjita Mohanty. 2003, Does Civil Society Matter? Governance in contemporary India, Sage, New Delhi.

UNDP Human Development Report 2004, Cultural Liberty in Todays Diverse World, Oxford, New Delhi

Vanaik, Achin. 1990, The Painful Transition: Bourgeois Democracy in India, Verso, London.

Varshney, Ashotosh. 2004, India and the Politics of Developing Countries: Essays in memory of Myron Weiner, Sage, New Delhi

Wilkinson, Paul. 1971, Social Movement, Macmillan,London.

Bibliography (Assamese):

Barpujari, H.K. 1996, Uttar Purbanchalar Samasya Aru Rajniti, GL Publication, Guwahati

Gogoi, Hiren. 2004, Asomor Jatiya Jibanat Sanghat Aru Sanhati, Assam Publication Trust, Guwahati

Kalita, Arupa Patangiya. 2003, Phelani(An Assamese Novel), Jyoti Prakashan, Guwahati

Saikia, Dandeswar. 1978, Shah Bagishar Shramik Aru Aain, People’s Book

Mahanta, Prafulla. 2010, Asomiya Madhyabitta Shreneer Itihas, Bhabani Print & Publications, Guwahati.

Rongphar, Borshing. 2005, Karbi Anglongor rajnaitik Itihas, Fu Fu Publication, Diphu, Karbi Anglong.

Sharma, Debabrata. 2008, Asomia Jatigathan Prakriya Aru Jatiya Janagosthigata Anusthan Samuh, Ekalabya Prakashan, Jorhat, Assam


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Bookmark and Share

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Published by Centre for Environment, Education and Economic Development (CEEED), Assam.