Guwahati, May 23: A temporary truce in the ongoing power struggle in the Assam Congress Legislature Party was today ensured by some sustained backroom parleys by well-wishers of the party.
The daylong efforts were successful with the tone and tenor of the leaders of both the Gogoi and anti-Gogoi camps, from Himanta Biswa Sarma and Sarat Borkataky to Anjan Dutta and Ripun Bora, changing from aggressive to an accommodative one.
Party insiders said the dissidents’ demand for a call from chief minister Tarun Gogoi to any of the four senior party legislators — Sarat Borkataky, Rameswar Dhanowar, Bhumidhar Barman and Aklius Tirkey — by 5pm, was “nothing but a face-saver” devised by both the camps to ensure that matters do not reach a flashpoint.
With Gogoi remaining unusually silent since his meetings with party leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Motilal Vora, Ahmed Patel and C.P. Joshi yesterday, party leaders and members got in touch with both the camps, the sources said.
All through the day, Gogoi’s supporters — about 15 legislators — camping in Delhi kept holding meetings. They met the party’s Assam in-charge C.P. Joshi in the evening after he returned home around 7pm. Gogoi, who is in Delhi, remained indoors most of the day, staying away from the media.
A core member of the Gogoi camp told The Telegraph early this morning that a “final rapprochement without compromising on governance” was inevitable despite the high command throwing its weight behind Gogoi.
The move for a truce started with Gogoi calling up Borkataky and the latter reportedly telling him that he would not go to the Raj Bhavan.
“The chief minister told me that Motilal Vora will come as an observer and hold discussions with all the MLAs and he will abide by the decision of the observer. Following this development, we have temporarily suspended our decision to meet the governor,” Borkataky told reporters in the afternoon.
Sources said meeting the governor would have attracted disciplinary action against the MLAs as it would have been seen as defying the high command, which had asked Gogoi to “continue in office” but had also agreed to hear out the dissidents.
A party insider said there were also talks of a split if the high command did not replace Gogoi but that did not have many takers. “For that to happen, the anti-Gogoi camp will need the support of 52 of the 77 Congress MLAs. Not many are going to risk their career in the infighting by effecting a split or forcing a mid-term poll.”
While the dissidents claim the support of 45 MLAs, a Raj Bhavan source said the person who sought an appointment with governor J.B. Patnaik last evening said the delegation would have 35 members.
Jonai legislator Pradan Barua had sought the appointment after Sonia neither accepted nor rejected the resignation offered by Gogoi, owning moral responsibility for the party’s poor poll performance.
A charged-up Sarma had said around 1pm that it was not only their duty to save the government. “The onus is also on Gogoi. The party has given him so much. Made him chief minister thrice and also made his son an MP. Now the ball is in his court to save the party.”
But with the BJP taking over Upper Assam and the AIUDF lower Assam, the Congress or any dissident group doesn’t stand much of a chance, at least at this moment, if elections are forced upon the state. The Congress suffered its worst defeat in the Lok Sabha polls this time, despite having 79 MLAs and being in power for 13 years.
Sources in the AICC said the high command would not brook any dissidence from the state unit. One of them claimed that vice-president Rahul Gandhi had a couple of days ago “politely” told newly elected MP Sushmita Dev, who had openly asked Gogoi to give up the home and finance portfolios, to abide by party rules and ideology.
“Given the drubbing we received, the party will not mind a split if it helps to rebuild the party in the state. It had let go Andhra Pradesh and it will let go Assam, too, if its directives are challenged. But the positive development is that both Gogoi and Sarma are swearing by the high command or else today’s truce would not have been effected,” a party insider said.
With a temporary truce ensured, all eyes are now fixed on the visit by observer Motilal Vora and on Gogoi’s return to the state on Monday. “He will continue but has not said anything till now,” the source added.
Additional reporting by Pankaj Sarma in Guwahati and Nishit Dholabhai in New Delhi