Guwahati, May 27: Over 20 MLAs of the Himanta Biswa Sarma camp left for New Delhi in three batches today, ostensibly to push for the replacement of chief minister Tarun Gogoi, a move which reflects the deepening crisis within the Assam Congress Legislature Party.
The MLAs include ministers Gautam Roy, Ardhendu Dey and Siddique Ahmed, all of whom have directly or indirectly attacked Gogoi over the party’s worst-ever performance in the Lok Sabha polls.
The Congress won three seats, down from seven in 2009.
The Assam PCC had yesterday put off its extended executive, fearing trouble from both camps, busy as they are with their campaigns for and against Gogoi. The PCC, as of now, is neutral, downplaying the rift.
Party insiders said the Sarma camp MLAs today left in three groups. The first two groups left before Gogoi’s return from New Delhi where he had gone last week to offer his resignation to the high command, which has, however, asked him to continue.
Gogoi yesterday also attended the swearing-in of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
A senior member of the Sarma camp told The Telegraph that the MLAs had been “called” by the AICC for an interaction on the prevailing crisis in the Assam CLP.
A Sarma camp MLA said senior party leaders — Ghulam Nabi Azad, C.P. Joshi and Motilal Vora — will be talking to the MLAs as a single team.
“Everybody knows our demand,” the MLA said, when asked why they were visiting New Delhi when the AICC has decided to send an observer, as conveyed by Gogoi last Friday to senior MLA Sarat Borkataky.
Legislators belonging to the Sarma camp had at the time threatened to go to Raj Bhavan to convey their lack of confidence in the incumbent chief minister.
However, matters came to a head when Sarma, who was leading the anti-Gogoi camp, openly criticised Gogoi for the first time on Friday, going to the extent of saying he was not afraid of getting sacked as the ministers and he would serve under anybody but Gogoi.
The Sarma camp claims to enjoy the support of 45 of the 77 MLAs in the CLP. That its members went to New Delhi without waiting for the AICC observer’s visit only goes to show their determination to see Gogoi’s back.
Gogoi, on his part, appeared “relaxed and confident” during his interaction with a few senior party leaders, including cabinet colleagues Nazrul Islam and Tanka Bahadur Rai, whom he met at his hilltop residence this evening.
With the AICC ready to hear the grievances of the disgruntled MLAs, barring their demand for removal of Gogoi, there was nothing surprising about the chief minister’s “relaxed and confident” body language, a party leader said.
The AICC will also hear the Sarma camp and try to come out with a reconciliation formula, which will again be discussed with chief minister.
“If there is no amicable solution, more consultations will follow,” he said.
A cabinet reshuffle to give the government a new look appears to be imminent as well.