Guwahati, Oct. 19: All claims of bonhomie notwithstanding, it is the Lok Sabha elections, along with what the high command in a pyramidal party deems fit, that keep chief minister Tarun Gogoi going in Assam for now.
While a resolution for removal was not moved against him today, the resolution that was read out at the Congress Legislature Party meet held at the Assembly had a count that for all purposes goes against Gogoi — 44 of the 79 MLAs this afternoon said they were “unhappy” with the functioning of the government.
It was in April this year that 32 MLAs had written to the party high command in Delhi complaining about “Gogoi’s autocratic functioning”. A senior minister had some weeks after that said they would “do what they had to do” once they had “enough” MLAs on their side.
Tension within the party was further toned down with a decision taken to redraft the resolution by a committee which has senior legislators Sarat Barkataki, Anjan Dutta, Abdul Muhib Mazumder and health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, sources said.
“Passing the resolution as it was would will only mean playing into the hands of a resurgent BJP,” the sources said. “The new resolution will dwell on how to improve the performance of the government which was already doing well,” the sources said.
Emerging from the shadows of the CLP, party members in attendance said Gogoi, unable to stand the pressure on him, broke down, asking a senior minister who is believed to head the dissidence within the party “to do as he pleased”.
“Party members, however, drew a line at that, expressing their displeasure rather than ask for a change of leadership at Dispur, all because of the general elections next year. A ministerial reshuffle, however, continued to be on top of the agenda of the disgruntled MLAs,” sources said. “All MLAs need to be treated equally,” they insisted at the CLP meet. Gogoi, however, did keep up his front. “All is well within the CLP. We will aim at winning all the 14 Lok Sabha seats in next year’s elections from Assam,” Gogoi told reporters after the marathon CLP meeting concluded. He asserted that the meeting was “very successful” and the party MLAs discussed and expressed their grievances in a “dignified manner”, with the chief minister promising to “look into the issues”.
For the public eye, however, signs of a welcome rapprochement seemed to be offing in the Congress. Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was the last to speak in a line of over a dozen MLAs during the CLP meet, is said to have spoken “very highly” of the chief minister, describing him as a “father figure”.
At loggerheads quite openly till just days ago, Sarma today hugged Gogoi and also accompanied the chief minister home after the meeting. They were accompanied by forest minister Rakibul Hussain whose relationship with Sarma had severely strained over the past months.
Sarma today went on to say said the CLP meeting was another example as how the Congress party “could function in a very democratic manner even under the most difficult circumstances”.
“All MLAs, right from the youngest Rupjyoti Kurmi and Pijush Hazarika to the seniormost Bhumidhar Barman and Abdul Muhib Mazumdar got the opportunity to express their grievances.
“They discussed the issue of under-development in their constituencies and the performance of the government,” Sarma said.
Sarma said the most crucial and significant aspect of the CLP meeting was solidarity expressed by all MLAs to contest the next year polls. He said such a gesture is only evident of the fact that individuals cannot be larger than the Congress party.
The health minister later tweeted that their (himself and his party followers) loyalty to the Congress party is second to none. “We will come out of the CLP meeting more stronger (sic),” Sarma tweeted.
Assam PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita who attended the CLP meeting as special invitee said today’s meeting would go a long way in strengthening the party particularly for the next year’s polls.
Kalita said the issue of ministerial reshuffle was discussed during the CLP meeting. “But the meeting left the issue at the discretion of the chief minister,” he said. Referring to the Gogoi-Sarma tussle, Rana Goswami, Jorhat MLA and newly-appointed AICC secretary said: “Father and son may have differences. But that cannot nullify their relationship forever.”