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Gogoi rules out threat to chair

Guwahati, Aug. 9: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi does not see any threat to his position following the united move of 37 party legislators seeking berths in the ministry and rehabilitation as chairmen of public sector undertakings.

“Party legislators have every right to raise their demands. I welcomed them for ventilating their grievances before me openly and frankly. Their united move only reaffirmed the unity of Congress legislators. I assured them I would look into their grievances and they were happy,” Gogoi said today.

Thirty-seven Congress MLAs extracted an assurance from the chief minister to consider their demands minutes after the Gogoi ministry easily sailed past an Opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion in the Assembly yesterday.

The group of 37 ruling party legislators, led by Chandan Sarkar, met Gogoi after the House was adjourned sine die and placed their charter of demands. This included a reshuffle of the ministry and “rehabilitation of the MLAs” as heads of public sector undertakings. In the 126-member Assembly, the Congress has 71 MLAs as well as four associate members. The size of the present ministry is 36.

Though the Congress MLAs pledged full faith in Gogoi and maintained that he was their undisputed leader, party insiders cautioned that “undermining the united move of the Congress MLAs may lead to an Arunachal Pradesh-like situation” if their grievances are not addressed.

Though the Congress legislators’ meeting with the chief minister took place after the Opposition’s no-confidence motion was lost, the fact that they had met before the motion was taken up for discussion and while Gogoi was away in New Delhi, has rung alarm bells in the Congress camp.

The lone party MLA who was missing in yesterday’s meeting was Haren Das. Sarkar said Das could not be present at the meeting due to his preoccupation with a series of party programmes ahead of Independence Day.

Apart from Sarkar, the Congress MLAs have selected three other legislators — Madan Kalita, Gautom Bora and Ajit Singh — to speak to Gogoi on their behalf and place before him resolutions of their meeting. Sources said the move of the ruling party MLAs have worried the ministers as the legislators had laid down a strict condition that not a single minister be allowed during their meeting with the chief minister.

“The MLAs expressed strong resentment over the performance of some of the ministers and complained to Gogoi that these ministers were not maintaining cordial relations with MLAs and party activists, which has affected the ruling party’s popularity,” the source added.

Gogoi today also announced that his government would provide free LPG connections to one lakh widows from Independence Day. The chief minister added that freedom fighters’ pension would be enhanced to Rs 500 a month. The twin announcements were made while Gogoi was addressing a function at Rajiv Bhavan here this morning to commemorate the Quit India movement.

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