Assam: Can AASU Remain Apolitical After AJP Formation?
With the naming of the political party - Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP) - by the influential All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), the question doing the rounds is: with a full-fledged plunge into politics, will the most active students’ body in the country be able to remain non-political in nature?
The top leaders of the AASU have claimed that despite the formation of the political party the student body will maintain its non-political stance and in no way dilute its core character of a vigilant social group.
So far, two top leaders of the apex student organisation, Raju Phukon, and Chittaranjan Basumatary have left the union for an active political life. Raju Phukon will oversee work in Golaghat, Sivasagar, and Jorhat, whereas Chittaranjan Basumatary will bear the responsibility for Jonai, Dhemaji, and Dibrugarh.
Amid the new political developments, the apex student organisation still maintains its apolitical character in its organisational setup. "We earlier gave a son name Asom Gana Parisad (AGP) and this is the new son - Assam Jatiya Parisad (AJP) - who will serve Assam,” said Raju Phukon.
On being asked how AASU can claim its dissociation from politics even though it is actively leading the proceedings of the party, his answer was contradictory. "AASU has been critical of the AGP earlier, so it will maintain that and will even criticise AJP if needed," justified Phukon. In the same breath, he added that the membership of the new party will be from AASU.
Another question is who will provide the parties’ membership base: will it be AASU or will AJP start a new enrolment drive? G Plus spoke to AJP Chief Convenor Basanta Deka who envisions that development from the grassroots level is the answer. Deka acknowledged that AASU will play a role in that mission among others.
"Many new people are ready to work and we will see many new faces, even from AASU," said Deka. Deka rejected the apprehensions raised by political observers regarding the lack of a top brass leadership of the new party as the party is focused in “building from the bottom.” He also revealed that senior leaders "who are disillusioned with their own party" have also approached them. But all will be known in the coming months post-November, added the convenor.
The AASU Adhibexon (Convention) is set to be held in October and preparation for the event is underway. As per AASU leaders, the issue for the future of AJP will be taken up in the meet. The AASU leaders are themselves uncertain regarding what will follow in the discussions in the coming month. Nonetheless, a few senior AASU leaders harbour political ambitions.
AASU executive member, Bibek Dubey claimed, "The party issue will be taken up in the October meeting.” He further hinted that AASU leaders might migrate to the party owing to a leadership change in the student union itself. This directly linked that discussions are going on within the AASU and not just limited to the convenor meetings of the new party.
"I have a wish to influence politics. Both are interlinked and can't be separated," Assistant General Secretary AASU, Duldul Borkataki said frankly as he waits for the consensus to emerge in the coming month. Another name that crops up in the popular imagination is Dipanka Nath, President of AASU. He has neither denied nor confirmed joining the party.
On the contradiction of AASU forming a party and yet maintaining neutrality, he explained, "Our (AASU) constitution allows us to talk about regionalism even though we are not a political body. This party forms a part of the regionalism and as such we can talk about it. We already contest and win polls in University, that can't be done by saying we are apolitical.”
Nath's statements blur the thin line between politics and civil society activities of the AASU, which in a way signifies what the organisation has been about in Assam ever since the Assam Agitation when AGP was born out of the organisation. Now, a similar situation has emerged with the formation of AJP that has created an identity crisis among its members, although everything is “apolitical on paper.”
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