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Gogoi climbs down on Ajmal

Guwahati, May 28: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today softened his stand on the recently formed Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), a party which he had stridently countered till just the other day.

For the first time, Gogoi made conciliatory noises towards the minority-dominated front, after having successfully scuttled a move from within the Congress to include it in his government.

“In politics, it is naive to reject any hand offered in friendship,” Gogoi said in reply to a query. His statement implied he was not averse to taking the support of a party that had been formed with the sole aim of dislodging him and the Congress from power.

Till just the other day, Gogoi was opposed to any truck with Badruddin Ajmal’s group, describing it as a “dangerous force”. The AUDF won 10 seats in its electoral debut in the April Assembly polls. “If anyone wants to come or extend support to us, accepting our party’s ideology and principles, it will be most welcome,” Gogoi said.

Gogoi dismissed the view that he was the only Congress chief minister who had dared to ignore pressure from influential minority bodies and yet won the elections.

Even though the creators of the AUDF ' the Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind and its ilk ' had run an oust-Gogoi campaign during the polls, the chief minister was magnanimous enough to say: “The Jamiat is a non-political organisation. Some of its members are also our party functionaries. I don’t think the Jamiat as a whole opposed my party.”

While speaking at his Khanapara residence this morning, Gogoi outlined the policy contours for his new ministry. He said his government would play a proactive role in solving the protracted insurgency problem in Assam and address the regional imbalances impacting economic development in the state.

He explained his government’s thrust would not merely be to bring the Ulfa to the talks table but hammer out a permanent solution. “During our last tenure, we established links with the Ulfa. This time our focus will be on settling the problem once for all. We are not interested in only roping them in for talks.”

The chief minister promised that a faster pace of development would mark his second innings in Dispur.

Gogoi also cleared the air on the role of parliamentary secretaries (posts created to rehabilitate some MLAs who have been deprived of ministerial berths), explaining they would assist him while handling some of the crucial portfolios he is holding.

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