| Gogoi addresses the news conference in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, Oct. 17: Two days ahead of the much-awaited Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting, 79-year-old Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi said he would continue till the 2016 Assembly elections.
Gogoi made the remark at a news conference held this afternoon after announcing that the 2014 polls could be his last Lok Sabha elections as chief minister because of his advancing age.
“I am growing old and can’t remain chief minister forever,” he said, adding in the same vein that he would continue at the top post till 2016 when the state will face its next Assembly election. Gogoi, who became chief minister for three consecutive terms, celebrated his 79th birthday last Friday.
The next general elections will be in 2019 by which time Gogoi will be 85.
“I want the Congress to win at least 10 seats from Assam since it will be the last parliamentary polls to be held in the state under my chief ministership,” Gogoi said.
In 2009, the Congress had won seven out of 14 Lok Sabha seats in Assam while the BJP had bagged four seats.
He, however, refused to speculate on who will succeed him as the next chief minister as it “is up to the party high command” to decide.
“Few names are doing the rounds in media as my successor and even a section of our party men are also projecting the leaders of their choice as the next chief minister but the final decision in this regard will be taken by the high command,” he said. Names of Assam Congress president Bhubaneswar Kalita, DoNER minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, and Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi, among others, are doing the round as Gogoi’s successor.
On Saturday’s CLP meeting, Gogoi said he had called it though it was not mandatory for him to do so as less than two-third members of the CLP had asked for a meet.
“I have called the meeting to give the MLAs a chance to air their grievances. If they want I am even ready to call one CLP meeting every month,” he said.
Sparks may fly at the CLP meeting since a section of dissident MLAs had sought the meeting as they were unhappy at the “autocratic style of functioning” of some ministers.
“Let them (the dissidents) say what they like,” said Gogoi on the possibility of heated exchanges in the CLP meeting.
“I had requested C.P. Joshi, AICC general secretary in-charge of Assam, to attend the meeting but he told me that his presence is not required since it is our internal meeting,” he said.
Congress insiders said the 32 MLAs from the anti-Gogoi camp being led by cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma will be meeting tomorrow to chalk out their strategy. Asked if they would adopt an aggressive approach, they said it would depend on how things go.
“We will be raising our grievances and would like them to be clarified,” one of them said.
Sources also indicated that few non-performing ministers may face the heat from the anti-Gogoi camp which will not launch a frontal attack on Gogoi as the high command has more or less decided to stick to the tried and tested Gogoi-Kalita team for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The polls have become very important for the Congress, which is facing a tough challenge from the BJP.
Gogoi also came down heavily on Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Hind chief Syed Mehmood Madani for accusing the Congress of creating a scare about Narendra Modi in a bid to seek minority votes.