May 17: Some big names, a couple of less fancied names, the loyal soldiers and at least one comeback man made up the list of legislators approved by the Congress high command today for inclusion in Tarun Gogoi’s council of ministers, to be sworn in tomorrow.
“The high command has cleared the names of Congress MLAs who will take oath tomorrow in Guwahati,” Gogoi told the media in New Delhi just when speculation about who will make it had reached fever pitch.
The chief minister, however, refused to disclose the names of the legislators who would take oath as ministers at the Pragjyotish ITA Centre for Performing Arts in Guwahati.
Sources said the list submitted by Gogoi to the high command contained 14 names, excluding Pradyut Bordoloi and Ripun Bora ' both ministers in the previous government ' and veteran Sarat Barkatoky. A slot was reserved for a representative of the Koch-Rajbongshi community, but Gogoi ostensibly did not name any candidate.
A committee comprising Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee, Motilal Vohra and Kamal Nath scrutinised the list before sending it to party president Sonia Gandhi for the final seal of approval. At the last stop, out went three of Gogoi’s original choices ' Bidya Sing Engleng, Ajit Singh and Sarat Saikia ' and in came Bordoloi and Bora. The AICC decided to “accommodate” Barkatoky as chairman of the State Planning Board with cabinet rank.
Two berths were kept open for an expansion of the ministry at a later date. As was expected, three slots were kept aside for the Congress’s ally, the Hagrama Mohilary-led faction of the Bodoland People’s Progressive Front (BPPF).
Pramila Rani Brahma, Chandan Brahma and Rihon Daimari are the BPPF certainties in the coalition government.
The other “certainties” in Gogoi’s list are supposedly Prithibi Majhi, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Rockybul Hussain, Dildar Reza/Uttara Kalita, Rameshwar Dhanowar, G.C. Langthasa, Bharat Narah, Ajanta Neog, Gautam Roy, Bhumidhar Barman and Bibekananda Doley.
First-time legislator Bithika Dev (wife of Union minister Sontosh Mohan Dev) and Jibontara Ghatowar (wife of former PCC chief Paban Singh Ghatowar) were apparently not in the reckoning, though they were spoken about as contenders. Gogoi had told the media in the capital yesterday that no first-time legislator will be considered.
“As of now, they are not among the probables, but you never know. They might still make the cut if Gogoi is asked to give additional names,” a source had said just a couple of hours before the chief minister gleefully announced that his list had been cleared.
The chief minister held several rounds of meetings with AICC leaders Digvijay Singh and Chandan Bagchi since reaching New Delhi on Monday evening. The criteria for inclusion in the final list were “performance, loyalty, and community and district-specific considerations”, an AICC insider said. Gogoi’s detractors, however, cribbed that he prepared the first list in consultation with only two of his “young colleagues” in the previous ministry.
The Congress has 53 legislators in the 126-member Assembly, while the BPPF has 12. Seven Independents are also supporting the coalition.