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Members of 13th Assembly sworn in
- Pranab Gogoi elected Assam Speaker

Guwahati, June 6: The 13th session of the Assam Legislative Assembly started today with all the 125 legislators taking oath. Congress MLA Pranab Gogoi was sworn in as the 18th Speaker.

Hours after his swearing-in, the 75-year-old Speaker told The Telegraph: “In a democracy, we need the numbers to form the government. Inside the Assembly, we need the ability to convincingly articulate the problems of the people as per laid down procedures so that proper steps are taken to tackle these. I will try my best to meet their expectations and uphold the dignity of the august House.”

He sought to assure the Opposition that strength did not matter when it came to raising issues critical to the health and future of the state.

Most Opposition legislators, while congratulating Gogoi, said they were expecting a level playing field despite the sharp decline in their strength.

There are only 33 Opposition MLAs in the 126-member House. Of these, only a handful can stand up to the treasury bench by way of oratorial skills.

Talking exclusively to this correspondent late this afternoon, Gogoi held out ample hope for the Opposition if they went by the book. “I will try my best to rise to their expectations. I will give them ample opportunity to raise pressing issues if they go by the rules and articulate their case convincingly. I have already told the House that I will do everything to uphold the dignity of the House without any blemish on my part. I have also appealed to the honourable members to cooperate by sticking to the rules and procedures for smooth conduct of the business. If this is ensured, there will be no room for confrontation.”

He said there was no place inside the House for unruly behaviour. “People are watching us. The result of this Assembly has proved that. It is an eye-opener for all of us,” he said in an oblique reference to the Opposition’s role in the last Assembly.

The Opposition’s apprehension stems from the run-in it had with Gogoi’s predecessor Tanka Bahadur Rai, who, like his predecessor Prithibi Majhi, is now a minister in the 19-member Tarun Gogoi cabinet.

Walkouts and sit-ins were routine affairs in the last Assembly with the Opposition often going public with its disenchantment with the manner in which Rai conducted the affairs of the House.

AIUDF’s Sirajuddin Ajmal and the AGP’s Prafulla Kumar Mahanta subtly sought a level playing field from Gogoi in their congratulatory speeches.

On his journey from a minister to Speaker, Gogoi said he was now enjoying a more “dignified position”.

“Today, I am the protector of the rights of the members of the House irrespective of their political affiliations,” he said.

Pro-tem Speaker and former minister Bhumidhar Barman declared Gogoi the new Speaker. His name was proposed by Congress’s Sarat Barkataky and Abu Taher Bepari and BPF’s Chandan Brahma and was seconded by Congress’s Jiban Tara Ghatowar, Pradan Baruah and BPF’s Rihan Daimary. Barman also administered the oath to all the MLAs.

Chief minister Tarun Gogoi said Gogoi’s unopposed election proved that he enjoyed the confidence of the entire House.

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