Guwahati, June 12: The fate of a few influential ministers in the Congress government in the state hangs in balance with an aggressive Opposition excoriating the party at the central level for inducting “tainted ministers”.
At least two ministers in the Tarun Gogoi government — agriculture minister Ardhendu Kumar Dey and his deputy Himanta Biswa Sarma — may get the axe with the Congress high command instructing the chief minister to drop “tainted” ministers from his ministry during the forthcoming downsizing. Sarma is also the minister of state for planning and development.
The number of ministers has to be cut down to 19 from its present strength of 35 by July 6, keeping with the last year’s amendments to the Tenth Schedule, which lays down that the size of a ministry cannot be larger than 15 per cent of the Assembly strength.
A senior state Congress leader, known to be close to the chief minister, said the party high command had directed all Congress chief ministers to ensure that no legislator, against whom cases of serious nature are pending, gets a berth in the trimmed ministry.
He said the high command’s view was that the new law was a godsend for the chief ministers to show the black sheep in the ministry the door and that they should not let such an opportunity pass under any circumstance.
“Actually, the high command order has made things easier for the chief ministers,” he said. Gogoi had earlier admitted that the task of downsizing the ministry was both “difficult and unpleasant”, but that it was also a job that would have to be done.
The leader, however, agreed that it would be tough for Gogoi to get rid of his “trusted lieutenant and trouble-shooter” Sarma and might even plead with the high command to waive the directive in his case.
On the other hand, Sarma’s penchant for courting controversy has been landing the chief minister in spots of embarrassment from time to time.
In the latest such instance yesterday, Sarma said AGP MP from Dibrugarh, Sarbananda Sonowal, had not spoken a single word in Lok Sabha till now.
Sonowal today furnished “proof” before the media in the form of what he claimed as documents relating to Parliament proceedings. According to the documents, he had raised a matter under the Rule 377.