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CM oozes confidence

New Delhi, March 21: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi let his body language and rapport with the first family of the Congress do the talking today, as he appeared to tide over a political crisis casting shadow over his position in Dispur.

In one-on-one meetings with AICC president Sonia Gandhi today and with vice-president Rahul Gandhi last evening, Gogoi seems to have averted a crisis precipitated by dissidents allegedly led by health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Gogoi also indicated that he was looking into an alliance with the Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) in the near future.

Relaxed and confident, Gogoi said in a freewheeling chat with journalists that he had enjoyed the confidence of Congress top leaders since the days of Indira Gandhi. “I have never expected anything and I will be with the family till my death. All they want is sincerity and commitment,” he said.

Recollecting his association with former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Gogoi said he did not lose faith even when he was once dropped from the Union cabinet in 1990. Gogoi was then in the labour ministry but was later rehabilitated. The rest, as they say, is history.

However, if 1990 was repeated, he will take it in his stride. “If the Congress leadership wishes me to step down, I would do it unflinchingly,” Gogoi said.

The real issue, however, was the problem of dissidents. Gogoi said the party leadership had iterated that grievances should be addressed at the PCC level. “When the AICC leadership has not taken dissidence seriously, why should I?” he asked, when questioned if he had spoken individually to Rahul and Assam in-charge, Digvijaya Singh.

Over the past few days, some legislators from Assam have camped in the capital to show that Gogoi has lost confidence within the party. When quizzed about the problems Sarma had created, Gogoi said he had left everything to the party leadership and will accept whatever they say.

He said the top leadership did mention the dissidence although they used the word “dissatisfaction”.

“Anyone has the right to seek my removal as there could be differences when there are 79 legislators. But when every district has a minister in-charge, the problems should have been brought to my notice,” the chief minister said.

Speaking about the different lobbies working against him, Gogoi did not name anyone but listed out the lobbies. “The gutkha lobby is against me and financial institutions are against me,” he said. “We have banned tobacco products and some dissidents are believed to be close to these business houses.”

On a lighter note, Gogoi said he is still young. “That is why Rahul and I get along very well. He likes me,” said a smiling chief minister, when asked if he was able to adjust to the generational shift with the younger man taking over more responsibilities in the party.

That the Congress is inching towards the AIUDF was made amply clear. “I will not oppose it if the high command wishes so,” he said on the alliance with Ajmal. Both leaders have a shaky relationship but with compulsions of minority politics in Assam, the alliance may be on the table.

Gogoi said the panchayat polls had shown that people were happy with the Congress but conceded the party needed to be “aggressive” in areas with minority population. The AIUDF did extremely well in the election and with the general election due next year, the party may go ahead with the plans of a tie-up.

He said Sonia and Rahul were expected to visit Assam soon but the dates had not been fixed yet.


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