New Delhi, May 22: Sonia Gandhi has asked Tarun Gogoi to continue in office, prompting his camp to interpret it as a rejection of his resignation offer, but a senior Congress leader said the final decision would be taken after consulting MLAs.
“When Mr Gogoi met the Congress president and offered to resign, he was told to return to Assam while the party would think about his offer following consultations with other MLAs,” C.P. Joshi, the central Congress leader in charge of Assam affairs, told The Telegraph.
“Consultations” would mean that the supporters of Gogoi’s challenger, Himanta Biswa Sarma, would get an opportunity to voice their opinion. The Sarma camp claims the support of about half the Congress MLAs in Assam.
Gogoi had offered to resign after the Congress won just three of Assam’s 14 Lok Sabha seats while the BJP bagged seven.
Sources said Sonia wanted to prevent Assam from becoming a trigger for other state’s leaders to offer resignations too. The Congress leadership itself did not resign after the party was routed across the country.
Before meeting Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Gogoi had had a series of talks with senior party leaders such as Joshi, Motilal Vora and Ahmed Patel.
Gogoi did not speak to the media after meeting Sonia. He said a release from the All India Congress Committee and a subsequent briefing in Guwahati would make things clearer.
“The chief minister was told to continue in office,” MLA and vociferous Gogoi supporter Anjan Dutta told reporters here, construing it as a victory for the Gogoi camp. Over a dozen state ministers and MLAs had been camping in Delhi, anxious about their own futures in the light of Gogoi’s possible departure.
Biswa Sarma, said to have the support and “signatures” of some 37 among Assam’s 78 Congress MLAs, stayed put in Guwahati today. Some sources say that more than 40 party MLAs are unofficially on Biswa Sarma’s side.
A confident Gogoi had said in the run-up to the elections that the Congress would at least retain its tally of seven. “If we get less than six seats, I will resign,” he had said.
But right down to the panchayat level, Congress factions refused to work for one another during the general election. The debacle has done nothing to reduce the infighting.