| Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi talks to reporters in Guwahati on Friday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, May 11: Chief minister Tarun Gogoi today kept alive the suspense over a possible cabinet reshuffle by revealing that though he had no such immediate plans, he would do so if required. He also admitted indirectly that not all party legislators were with him.
The buzz over the reshuffle is the result of Gogoi’s statement, made on May 27, 2011, after constitution of his 19-member cabinet, that he would review the performance of his cabinet colleagues after a year. Adding to the suspense is the buzz in Congress circles that a reshuffle was imminent to send a message to those lobbying to send Gogoi to Delhi as vice-president, a post he has publicly denied being interested in.
“There will be no reshuffle immediately but if required, why not? I am not ruling that out (reshuffle) either. I will do whatever is necessary,” Gogoi, who took over as chief minister for the third straight term on May 18, 2011, told reporters here this afternoon while taking questions on the ongoing controversy and the internal power tussle among his legislators and ministers.
Dismissing as “motivated” reports suggesting that he had chosen forest minister Rakibul Hussain as his successor, Gogoi said, “I am very unhappy with the reports. I have not projected anybody. Who am I to project anybody when I have said I will continue.”
Gogoi was also candid enough to admit, even if indirectly, that not all legislators were with him and that he would leave the post if he lost majority within the CLP, when asked if he enjoyed support of all the 78 party MLAs.
“Why will everyone support me? There will be a few who will not, but it is good for democracy. If I lose majority, I will leave on my own. I cannot stop anybody from dreaming but the dream should be about serving the state and not of becoming the chief minister. Who will become the next chief minister will be decided by the party high command, not me,” he said.
Altogether eight first-term MLAs had gone to receive cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in Delhi after his return from an official trip to the US as a sign of solidarity after reports started doing the rounds that he was lobbying with the high command to get Gogoi shifted. Sarma, who has dismissed the reports, has since reposed faith in Gogoi’s leadership like other cabinet colleagues and the Assam PCC.
Gogoi, however, refused to comment on the affairs of the Youth Congress and the state NSUI, the leadership of which have been speaking out of turn, more so against Bordoloi. The APYC president and sitting MLA Pijush Hazarika has been accused of fudging his age to contest the organisational polls. “I will not encourage indiscipline but it is for the party to look into the allegations. I have to look after the problems of the state,” Gogoi said.
Though it has been business as usual for Gogoi and his cabinet colleagues since his return from Delhi on Thursday, Congress insiders said Gogoi had to carry out a reshuffle, even if minor or cosmetic, to show he held the reins of the state because the power tussle to replace him would harm the party and his government.
Congress insiders said no chief minister enjoys the support of all MLAs and no Prime Minister is supported by all MPs. “But to admit it in public, directly or indirectly, reflects Gogoi’s confidence in his team and the CLP. Through the media briefing, he has subtly warned his detractors to fall in line, as there is no threat to Gogoi at this juncture. He remains, for all practical purposes, the tallest among the state leaders,” one of them said.