Guwahati, March 14: Downplaying the dissidence against him by a section of his MLAs, chief minister Tarun Gogoi today described them as a “big zero”.
“I don’t care about dissidence. It is the media which is giving them so much importance. For me, they are a big zero,” he told reporters after coming out of the Assembly.
A source close to the chief minister said that he has remained defiant in the face of dissidence by a group of around 20 ministers and MLAs since he is firmly in the saddle, with the party high command putting its weight behind him. “Under no circumstances will the party high command replace Gogoi, a three-term chief minister, at least till the Lok Sabha elections next year, if not till the end of his current term, which ends in 2016,” he said.
The revolt within the Congress in Assam has become official, with as many as 20 of the party’s 79 MLAs refraining from putting their names in a signature campaign intended at reposing faith in chief minister Tarun Gogoi here last Thursday.
The campaign was initiated by a group of Congress leaders, including ministers and MLAs known to be Gogoi loyalists. Though 59 legislators signed, the rest said there was no question of signing because they were not asked by Gogoi to do so.
Prominent among those who are said to have refrained from endorsing the campaign were health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and most of the party’s “young brigade” — many of whom are first-time MLAs — known to be close to Sarma.
The signature campaign was launched after at least 20 MLAs met in the official residence of Congress legislator Chandan Sarkar here last Wednesday and apparently drew up a strategy to oust Gogoi.
Those who attended the meeting included Sarma, Nalbari MLA Jayanta Mallah Barua and Raha legislator Pijush Hazarika, among othes.
AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh had sent a letter to Sarma seeking an explanation on the role reportedly played by NewsLive, a TV news channel, in whipping up a campaign against Gogoi. Gogoi today hinted that now onwards he will firmly take charge of all affairs concerning his government. “Earlier, I used to depend on ministers, but now I will review all by myself,” he said. He will also hold discussions with party MLAs once every three years.