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Gogoi back in saddle with red-carpet message to critics

Guwahati, Oct. 2: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today returned to the state phys- ically healthier and politically stronger.

Doubts over Gogoi’s hold on the party were quickly dispelled by the turnout of ministerial colleagues, party leaders and loyalists at the Borjhar airport when he arrived from New Delhi.

Alighting from an Indian Airlines aircraft, the chief minister climbed onto an open jeep and waved to everyone with the confidence of a leader who knows where he stands. From the airport, he drove straight to his official residence at Jawaharnagar in a bullet-proof Ambassador.

The chief minister had been rushed to the capital on August 18 for treatment of severe back pain. He was discharged from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences on August 31, but a bout of gastritis forced him back into hospital on September 2.

Accompanying Gogoi on his return to the state was his physiotherapist, R.N. Saikia. Doctors at AIIMS have advised the chief minister to continue a set of exercises.

Health minister Bhumidhar Barman, tipped to be deputy chief minister in Gogoi’s absence, was the first to welcome the chief minister with a traditional gamocha. PCC general secretaries Jai Kumar Jain and Akon Bora, along with PWD minister Sarat Barkatoki, followed suit.

Two other members of the Cabinet, power minister Devanand Konwar and handloom and textiles minister Hemo Prova Saikia, returned from New Delhi this afternoon. The Governor, Lt Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha, was on the same flight.

For the Congress, Gogoi’s return to the state on the eve of the six-day autumn session of the Assembly is a major boost. The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) had accused the chief minister of creating an “unprecedented crisis” by remaining absent from Dispur for a long period. The party had planned to raise the issue in the Assembly.

AGP chief Brindaban Goswami had told reporters recently that the government had ceased to function because of the chief minister’s absence. He said Gogoi should have made “alternative arrangements” before leaving for New Delhi.

The AGP criticised the frequent visits of ministers to New Delhi to receive orders from Gogoi. Sources said several ministers had gone to the capital for no purpose other than to enquire about his health.

The remarks prompted Gogoi to ask ministers camping in the capital to return to Dispur.

Encouraged by the AGP’s barbs, Gogoi’s detractors in the ruling party had stepped up the clamour for the appointment of a deputy chief minister.

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