Guwahati, May 11: A road that had appeared bumpy suddenly looks smooth for Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi.
After being almost written off, Gogoi is now poised to retain the hot seat with the Congress’s 53 seats making it the single largest party in a House of 126, the support of at least 12 Bodo legislators assured and “challenger” Bhubaneswar Kalita out of the way.
Although AICC leader Digvijay Singh said the next chief minister would be chosen only at the Congress Legislature Party meeting on Saturday and Gogoi promised to “happily” shoulder any responsibility given to him, there was little to indicate that someone other than the incumbent would make the cut.
Singh and his AICC colleague Chandan Bagchi, who arrived in Guwahati just after Gogoi’s resounding victory in Titabor was confirmed, drove straight to the chief minister’s hilltop residence instead of dropping by at the party headquarters, Rajiv Bhawan. Congratulatory calls from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi came in by 2pm.
Among the other callers were MP Mani Kumar Subba and Robin Bordoloi, neither of them known to be particularly fond of him.
A beaming Gogoi ' not that he has ever been seen with a frown ' said he always knew that the Congress would beat the anti-incumbency factor. “I have never hankered after any post and will do whatever is asked of me. More than the chief ministership, I am excited about our party returning to power despite predictions to the contrary. It is a vote for continuity, development and sincerity. I always knew we were on course. I have full faith in the people.”
While Gogoi was magnanimous in victory, Kalita, the PCC president, said he had taken his defeat “sportingly”. He said Rangia, where he lost to Ananta Deka of the CPM, had always been an anti-Congress constituency. “I lost to the CPM-AGP combine, but am happy that we have retained power under my presidentship.”
Kalita also scotched speculation about his resignation from the PCC chief’s post. “Where is the question of resigning' I am an elected party president for three years,” he said.
Apart from Kalita, a few other Congress heavyweights who could have challenged Gogoi’s leadership fell by the wayside. The list includes Anjan Dutta, Devananda Konwar, Nilamoni Sen Deka, Ardhendu Dey, Haren Das and Hemo Prova Saikia.
“That all these perceived anti-Gogoi men lost while some known Kalita sympathisers like Bhupen Bora and Abdul Khaleque won by very, very narrow margins could not be a mere coincidence. There was a hidden hand at work,” a senior Congress leader said without elaborating.
The immediate challenge for the Congress is to accommodate its allies in a 19-member ministry. The Hagrama Mohilary-led Bodoland People’s Progressive Front has 12 seats and will help the Congress form the government.
Mohilary, who is the chief executive of the Bodoland Territorial Council, said in Kokrajhar that he was confident of getting at least three berths in the ministry.