The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Kidwai hears Gogoi and health murmurs

Guwahati, Oct. 8: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today submitted a long list of his government’s achievements to AICC general secretary Mohsina Kidwai, but failed to distract the seasoned leader from her mission of ascertaining whether all is well in the state unit of the party.

Kidwai’s meeting with Gogoi at the circuit house here, which was chock-a-block with Congress members, lasted over one-and-a-half hours. However, her one-to-one discussions with ministers, MLAs and senior leaders of the party elicited more interest and caused suspense in the Gogoi camp.

Congress insiders said several party leaders spoke out against the government, the “growing clout” of senior bureaucrat M.G.V.K. Bhanu, corruption in various departments and the “unbecoming conduct” of first-time legislator Hemanta Biswa Sarma. In a memorandum to Kidwai, a group of leaders urged her to restrain Sarma from making “sweeping statements” in the Assembly.

On Bhanu’s alleged interference in matters beyond his jurisdiction, the disgruntled Congress leaders said the commissioner and secretary to the chief minister had antagonised several people, including his colleagues.

Soon after arriving here this afternoon, Kidwai had gone into a huddle with senior party leaders, led by PCC president and parliamentarian Paban Singh Ghatowar. Gogoi called on her at 5.15 pm, while the entire council of ministers and party MLAs waited for their turn since 4 pm.

“Though Gogoi is entrenched in the saddle and nobody has charged him with anything, Kidwai’s interaction with his adversaries within the party is likely to change the equation. It may not lead to a change of guard or appointment of a deputy chief minister, as is being demanded by the Gogoi-baiters, but the chief minister might be forced to give up the plum portfolios,” a source said.

Disgruntled Congress leaders told Kidwai that Gogoi’s long absence from office — he was in New Delhi for treatment of a back problem and gastritis — had put the party in a spot of bother. Some of them harped on the failure of the government to fulfil the promises listed in the election manifesto after more than a year in office.

The overly observant ones did not miss out on the opportunity to remind Kidwai that the chief minister was not in the pink of health. They said the special chair on which he sat to protect his back and the time he took to reach the circuit house were indicators of his failing health.

A minister, however, said his conversation with Kidwai was limited to his department’s achievements and the party’s state of preparedness for the municipal and general polls. “She did not say anything about appointing a deputy chief minister, though some MLAs had raised the issue. On the government’s performance, I told her that it was not as bad as some people were making it out to be.”

he said.

The power tussle in the Congress intensified after the high command gave the reins of the PCC to Ghatowar. Since then, he has not missed out on any opportunity to flay the government.

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