The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Rotation brigade in revolt rerun

Guwahati, May 9: The group of 37 that caused a crisis in the Tarun Gogoi government last year is at it again, indicating their preference for a rotation system that would ensure each Congress legislator gets a taste of ministerial responsibilities.

The 37 legislators gave the chief minister some anxious moments in August last year, when they submitted a memorandum demanding a piece of the power pie. Gogoi defused the crisis by appointing 15 of them as chairpersons of state government undertakings.

As the time for downsizing the ministry draws nearer — the chief minister intends to do it after the Lok Sabha poll results are declared — the same group is planning to step up the clamour for a rotation system.

Confirming the development, senior Congress member Dileshwar Tanti said the group of 37 would meet here soon to devise a strategy to convince the chief minister of the feasibility of the proposal.

The legislator said over phone from Doom Dooma in Tinsukia district that he would get in touch with his colleagues after arriving in Guwahati tomorrow.

Tanti said the move should not be perceived as a sign of revolt against Gogoi’s leadership.

“It is the chief minister’s prerogative to select his own team, and we will only urge him to consider our demand. We had raised a similar demand last year, if you remember.”

On whether the groundwork had already been done, the legislator said the group would have to assemble to take a decision.

“We have been in touch, but since many of us have been away in our respective constituencies for the elections, we will be able to sit together only after Lok Sabha poll results are declared.”

A member of the Gogoi minister said the moral victory in August had presumably emboldened the group to ask for more. “The chief minister has to tread cautiously. He is on thin ice.”

Power and law minister Devananda Konwar raised the hackles of the Gogoi camp a few days ago by suggesting that the chief minister should step down to facilitate the constitution of a new ministry instead of downsizing the existing one.

He claimed some more ministers shared his view and were waiting for an opportune moment to say what they feel.

The group of 37, led by Chandan Kumar Sarkar, had said that some senior ministers should be shifted to party posts and some among them given the vacated ministry berths. A source said a similar situation could arise after Sarkar’s return from a trip to Calcutta.

The Congress has 74 legislators in the 126-member Assembly. One seat held by the party fell vacant when Rupam Kurmi, who was a minister, passed away.

The recent constitutional amendment requires Gogoi to trim his ministry from 35 to 19 members.

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