Guwahati, May 12: The Congress today got a forewarning of the potential for trouble in its alliance with the Hagrama Mohilary faction of the Bodoland People’s Progressive Front when the party submitted a wish-list seeking the posts of deputy chief minister and home minister, among others.
Apart from two cabinet berths, the Bodo party asked for the appointment of two of its 12 legislators as ministers of state with independent charge.
Mohilary, who led a BPPF delegation to a breakfast meeting at chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s hilltop residence at Koinadhara, is understood to have stated in no uncertain terms that he would not settle for anything less than four berths in the new government.
The BPPF even sought a written assurance from the Congress on its demands before issuing the letter of support. The Central Working Committee of BPPF will meet here tomorrow to finalise its future course of action.
AICC leaders Digvijay Singh and Chandan Bagchi and PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita were present at the meeting this morning.
Gogoi gave the Bodo delegation a patient hearing, but stopped short of making any commitment. The chief minister said their demands would be considered by the Congress high command.
Sources in the chief minister’s office said the Congress was willing to part with two ministerial berths and the post of deputy Speaker. The incumbent is Tanka Bahadur Rai, who retained the Borcholla seat in a battle with AGP president and former mentor Brindaban Goswami. The latter, however, won in Tezpur.
The BPPF delegation included vice-president Chandan Brahma and senior functionary Emanuel Mushahary.
Spokesman Khampa Borgoyari said the BPPF’s top priority was to facilitate a stable government for the next five years under Gogoi’s leadership. He confirmed that the party had asked for two cabinet berths, including the post of deputy chief minister, and two slots for ministers of state with independent charge.
Borgoyari allayed fears of a deadlock, saying the party’s stand was not a rigid one.
Justifying the demand for specific portfolios, the BPPF spokesman said the party wanted departments through which peace and economic development of the Bodo people could be achieved. “We would prefer departments like home, public works, welfare of plains tribes and backward classes and panchayat and rural development.”
To ensure that the BPPF does not become more demanding, the Congress is trying to rope in some Independents and MLAs from the smaller parties. “Several Independents have already pledged their support in a formal letter to the Congress,” a party source said.
Although Gogoi’s election as leader of the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) at a meeting tomorrow appears a mere formality, the source said a section of senior leaders and MLAs might moot the idea of letting Sonia Gandhi decide who will be the chief minister. “The idea is to show the high command that we are a united house. We will go by anybody she picks.”
There was hectic activity throughout the day at Rajiv Bhawan, the chief minister’s residence and the hotel where AICC observer Mohsina Kidwai is staying. She will oversee the election of the CLP leader and the formation of the new government.
The meeting to elect the CLP leader will ironically be presided over by PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita, who lost the race for the Rangia seat.