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A deputy for Gogoi'

Guwahati, June 19: Assam may not get a deputy chief minister anytime soon, but Tarun Gogoi could get a deputy to ease the pressure on him.

The Congress high command believes it is time to officially anoint a legislator from either the tea community or one representing the minorities as the “number two” in the Gogoi cabinet, if not a full-fledged deputy chief minister. This line of thinking is the outcome of a review of the Congress-led coalition’s performance over the past year.

A source said Gogoi’s understudy could be chosen before the panchayat elections, due in October, so that the chief minister can do justice to the home portfolio.

Gogoi has admitted to feeling overburdened by the responsibility of leading the government and handling the home portfolio himself. There have been as many as 73 bomb and grenade blasts this year, five of them in Guwahati last month.

Those lobbying with the high command for a “number two” in the cabinet are citing Manipur as an example. The Congress in Manipur is, in fact, planning to have two deputy chief ministers, one from the Meitei community and other a Naga.

Congress insiders say the high command is satisfied with Gogoi’s performance in the first year of his second consecutive term in office, but concerned over the government’s handling of law and order and the Opposition’s campaign for President’s rule.

“Whatever the decision, it will be taken before the panchayat polls and not in any way undermine Gogoi’s position because he has done reasonably well and has a clean image. The idea is to ease the pressure on him so that he can concentrate on the home portfolio and the big picture, using his expertise and experience in public life. The time has come to lessen his burden,” a source said.

He hinted at a reshuffle that could see new faces inducted into the 19-member Gogoi ministry.

Asked who the possible inductees were, the source said aspirants to berths in the ministry must be “acceptable to all” and free of controversy. “Quite a few are in contention.”

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