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Cong veteran raises voice

Guwahati, May 7: Trouble seems to be mounting for chief minister Tarun Gogoi with senior-most Congress legislator Rameswar Dhanowar seeking his resignation over his “failure” to check the recent flare-up in the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD).

He not only criticised the chief minister’s handling of the situation as the home minister but also said he was pained at Gogoi’s habit of making light of any issue, which was gradually “alienating” the people from the Congress.

Dhanowar, who is pushing 80 and is an eight-term MLA from Digboi in Upper Assam, told this correspondent that Gogoi should quit owning moral responsibility for the BTAD killings.

“He (Gogoi) has no control over the home department which he heads. He cannot run the department. He should leave it. We don’t know who are his advisers or else such unrest would not have occurred with such regularity,” he said this evening.

Officially, 39 people have been killed in the carnage.

Dhanowar, who was dropped as minister by Gogoi, made his observations soon after health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma met UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi in Delhi and asked her to ensure adequate security in the violence-hit BTAD after results of the Lok Sabha election are out on May 16.

Dhanowar is a key member of the Sarma-led anti-Gogoi camp in the Assam Congress Legislature Party.

The Telegraph reported yesterday that the anti-Gogoi camp was set to revive its oust-Gogoi campaign. They had dropped broad hints about staying united till the polls.

First-time legislator Sushmita Dev had a couple of days ago requested Gogoi, who turns 80 this year, to let go of the home and finance portfolios as his plate was overflowing and he was getting too old to handle departments which needed dedicated service. Another first-time legislator, Pijush Hazarika, said lessons had not been learnt from the 2012 BTAD riots.

Both Sushmita and Hazarika belong to the Sarma camp, which had last year collected signatures of most Congress legislators in support of a change of guard but a temporary patch-up was effected following conciliatory gestures from Gogoi.

Dhanowar first criticised Gogoi this evening in a television programme in which he participated along with Sarma, Hazarika and minister Siddique Ahmed. Though the others did not criticise Gogoi, none of them defended the three-term chief minister when Dhanowar sought his resignation.

“I am ready to face action. As a senior Congressman, I am pained to see the decline of the party in the state,” he said when asked if he was not worried about his public statement. He said he would write to Sonia Gandhi about the trouble awaiting the Congress if intra-party “reforms” were not initiated at the earliest.

Congress insiders said the move from the anti-Gogoi camp was along expected lines. “There is fear about Gogoi continuing even if he gets six seats, something which his rivals feel will only weaken their campaign against him. The infighting is likely to cost the party dear in the polls. It remains to be seen how Gogoi responds. He has made his case weak saying he would quit if the 2009 tally of seven seats drops this time,” one of them said.

The insiders said since Gogoi was considering reshuffling the ministry after May 16, attempts would be made by CLP members to mount pressure to get into the ministry or retain their posts.