| Binanda Saikia addresses the news conference in Guwahati on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos |
Guwahati, July 17: Dissident Congress MLAs from Assam today gave the party high command time till Saturday to decide on their demand for replacing chief minister Tarun Gogoi, failing which they will meet on Monday to chalk out their next course of action.
The setting of deadline is being seen as a sort of ultimatum to the high command, which has gone silent after taking the views of both the camps on the crisis gripping the CLP since 2012. Most in the party believed that the AICC would take a call on the dissidents’ demand for change of guard following the stock-taking one-on-one sessions with MLAs, ministers and party leaders by senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on June 23-24.
Pradan Baruah, Binanda Saikia, Bidya Singh Engleng, Habul Chakraborty, Mansing Rongpi — five MLAs from the dissident camp, led by cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, expressed their displeasure before the media here this afternoon over the high command’s delay in finding a solution to defuse the CLP crisis nearly a month after Kharge’s visit to the state. Kharge has submitted a report to the high command, which sources suggest called for change of guard as the dissident camp enjoyed majority support in the CLP.
“We have been pressing the high command to change the chief minister after conveying our grievances. Among others, under the present leadership the law and order situation of the state has deteriorated and communal conflicts have increased,” said Binanda Saikia, a two-time MLA from Sipajhar. Three more MLAs, Jayanta Mallah Baruah, Jawed Islam and Kamalakhya Purkayastha, were also present in the conference room of the MLA Hostel. “Kharge took our opinion but unfortunately, the high command has not taken any decision, compounding the problems of the party and elected members. As such, we will wait till Saturday. If no decision is announced by then, we will take necessary steps. We still have faith in the high command to resolve the issue,” Saikia said.
Sarma was seen at a college function in Amguri, the constituency of senior MLA Anjan Dutta, who appears to enjoy the confidence of both Gogoi and Sarma. He had breakfast at Dutta’s house. Dutta, sources said, has been called to New Delhi by the AICC tomorrow. “Dutta is the man to watch if the high command thinks that dissidence will remain if Sarma is given the chief minister’s post,” a senior source said.
Before the press meet, Gogoi, who went about his daily chores as usual, had categorically ruled out stepping down from his post. Today’s development comes few days after Gogoi took the fight to the dissident camp by threatening to take action against minister of state Siddique Ahmed telling the media that some CLP members were contemplating boycotting the budget session of the Assembly starting August 4 and protesting in front of Rahul Gandhi if a decision on the change of leadership is not taken. Gogoi’s belligerence suggested he may have secured some kind of assurance from the high command about his continuance or that he has been able to divide the Sarma camp which claimed the support of 50 of the 78 party MLAs even today.
It also comes a day after three cabinet ministers — Sarma, Ardhendu Dey and Gautam Roy — skipped a cabinet meeting called by Gogoi yesterday.
The dissident MLAs said the people of the state would see a “big” development if the high command does not come out with a solution by Saturday.
Soon after the dissidents’ news conference, sources said they would first announce the name of a CLP leader. “If it is not accepted, then they may seriously consider splitting and forming a government with the help of the AIUDF, AGP and BPF and Sarma as the chief minister,” one of them said.
Sarma told mediapersons at Amguri in Sivasagar district that everybody wants an amicable resolution to the CLP issue but if it is allowed to drift, there could be complications.
He said that he was unaware of the press meet in Guwahati.