GAUHATI, India— A onetime student activist was elected unanimously by his party Sunday to lead a new state government dedicated to the expulsion of more than 2 million Moslem immigrants from Assam.
Prafulla Mahanta, 32, who catapulted to national prominence at the head of a six year student led campaign to expel illegal immigrants from the northeastern Indian state of Assam, was named chief minister by all 64 victorious candidates of the newly formed party Assam Gana Parishad (AGP).
The party decisively defeated Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s ruling Congress (I) party in bitterly contested state assembly and national parliament elections last Monday in the state, which has been torn by Hindu Moslem tensions that climaxed with the massacre of 4,000 Moslems two years ago.
Mahanta and nearly all the other newly elected legislators are leaders of the All Assam Students Union and are between 25 and 35 years old.
Political observers said it was by far the youngest state government in Indian history.
Mahanta, a bachelor and graduate law student, is scheduled to be sworn in as chief minister Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters at an importantly press conferences after the announcement of his election as chief minister designate, Manhanta said his two top priorities would be the implementation of the so-called Assam accord and the eradication of corruption.
The Assam accord between Assamese student leaders and Gandhi, announced last August, calls for the expulsion of about 2 million mainly Moslem immigrants who entered Assam from Bangladesh since 1971.
Another 200,000 immigrants who entered the state between 1966 and 1971 would be allowed to stay but would lose their voting rights for 10 years.
In addition, the accord calls for the construction of a fence along the Bangladesh border to ensure that no more illegal immigrants enter Assam.
Assam’s population of 20 million includes about 8.5 million Hindus, 5 million Moslems and 7 million other minorities.
Anti-immigrant agitation by the majority Hindu population climaxed in February 1983, when state elections were accompanied by a massacre of about 4,000 Moslems.
National elections in 1984 were postponed a year in Assam to let tempers cool.
In a statement to celebrating supporters Sunday, AGP deputy leader Bhrigu Kumar Phukan called on fellow students to go back to school now that the election is over.
He said his party would not initiate a “witch hunt” of immigrants but would see that the central government made ¢ prompt decision on where to deport the illegal immigrants and when to construct the fence between Assam and Bangladesh.
Mr. Mohanta is likely to take oath in office of the Chief Minister on Tuesday. Two independent members have also extended support to Mr. Mohanta. Punjab Chief Minister, S. Surjit Singh Barnala, has welcomed Mr. Mohanta’s choice as the Party leader.
Mr. Rajiv Gandhi Prime Minister of India has admitted that the outcome of Assam Assembly elections was a setback for the Congress (I) but added that democratic verdict has to be accepted. Speaking at the Congress (I) Parliamentary party Mr. Gandhi said that Congress (I) would keep the unity and integrity of the country above party interests.
Prime Minister said that infiltration of foreigners into India was a serious matter and his government was looking into it from al) angles.
Article extracted from this publication >> December 27, 1985