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Gogoi harps on unity for rural polls
- Work and don’t worry about funds, chief minister tells legislators

Tarun Gogoi at the Panchayat Sanmilan in Guwahati on Friday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, Dec. 14: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today appealed to Congress legislators to work together to improve the party’s prospects in the ensuing panchayat elections.

Gogoi had called the meeting of party MLAs to discuss the road map and strategies to be followed by the elected representatives in the CLP room in the Assembly here this evening.

One of the legislators told The Telegraph that the chief minister conveyed to the MLAs to extend more powers to the panchayats. “The meeting was panchayat-oriented.”

Gogoi stressed the need to fight the polls unitedly and asked the MLAs to be careful while interacting with the media, a fallout of yesterday’s action of a few parliamentary secretaries who went to town with their grievances, hours after their meeting with the chief minister. He wanted the MLAs to concentrate on cooperative societies, which can boost the party’s prospects.

A candid Gogoi admitted at the meeting that infighting will always remain but all legislators should put aside their differences in the greater interest of the party and the government, both of which have been adversely impacted because of infighting, since talks about a section trying to send Gogoi to Delhi as Vice-President early this year. Congress had won the last two panchayat polls under Gogoi with convincing margins.

While talking about unity, Gogoi also politely turned down a request by a section of MLAs to allow Congress legislators to decide on distribution of party tickets. To him, ticket distribution has to be done in consultation between party leaders and legislators.

He also conveyed to the legislators that they needed to take the responsibility of improving the performance of the party and not worry about funds — a remark which has virtually made MLAs “solely” accountable for the performance of the party in their respective constituencies.

The parliamentary secretaries yesterday met Gogoi and spoken about how they were being ignored both by officials and their respective ministers. However, parliamentary secretaries attached to Gogoi or health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said they had nothing to complain about.

“The chief minister has done his best to take everybody together but the infighting will resume if assurances were not implemented as soon as possible. The panchayat polls will be as much a test for Gogoi as it will be for a group of MLAs seeking change of leadership,” an MLA said.

The legislators’ meeting was preceded by a Panchayat Sanmilan graced by Gogoi, panchayat and rural development minister Rakibul Hussain, agriculture minister Nilamani Sen Deka and parliamentary secretary Rana Goswami at the Veterinary field in Khanapara here.

This was followed by the first meeting of the Congress’s manifesto committee for panchayat elections at Rajiv Bhawan.

Besides Hussain and Goswami, the meeting of the Bhumidhar Barman-headed 10-member committee was also attended by the chairman of the party’s flagship programme Ripun Bora (convener) and chairman of the PCC’s media department Haren Das.

At the Khanapara meeting, Gogoi said Dispur was committed to working for the empowerment of rural people and in order to ensure that th-ey had decentralised power by empowering the panchayats.

He said the government would take similar steps in the next five years and said decentralisation of power was the main reason behind the rapid development of rural areas. “Development of rural areas was essential to ensure development of Assam since more than 85 per cent of the population resided in rural areas.”

Gogoi will attend a panchayat rally in Barpeta tomorrow.