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Gogoi: Cong base secure in Assam

- Dutta holds fort in Delhi, to meet Sonia

(Top) Anjan Dutta and Himanta Biswa Sarma

July 18: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today said there was no need to worry about the Congress government in the state.

The comment came on a day senior legislator Anjan Dutta was summoned by the Congress high command to discuss the crisis in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP).

“There should not be any worry. The Congress government is and will remain in Assam,” Gogoi told reporters on the sidelines of an official function at the Assam police headquarters here.

The three-time chief minister was responding to dissident MLAs’ ultimatum to the high command to take a decision on their demand for a change in leadership in the CLP by Saturday, failing which they would take “appropriate steps” on Monday.

Gogoi made the remark around the same time that Dutta left for Delhi to meet the AICC leadership who seemed to be cut up with the overall conduct of the dissident camp.

Five MLAs from the dissident camp — Pradan Baruah, Binanda Saikia, Bidya Singh Engleng, Habul Chakraborty and Mansing Rongpi — had yesterday expressed displeasure before the media over the high command’s delay in taking steps to defuse the CLP crisis.

It has been nearly a month since senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge visited the state to review the situation.

Kharge’s report, submitted to the high command, had reportedly called for a change of guard as the dissident camp, led by cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, enjoys majority support in the CLP.

Dutta, who is accompanied by first-time MLA Debabrata Saikia, after meeting AICC general secretary in-charge of Assam C.P. Joshi, said he “feels Gogoi will continue” and that the high command will make the picture clear very soon. Dutta will also meet party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi. He is seen as someone who can bridge the gap between the two camps.

However, state cabinet minister Gautam Roy, who is also in Delhi, said the high command had not taken any decision on Gogoi’s continuation.

In Guwahati, Sarma told a section of television journalists this afternoon that the dissidents had no option but to set a deadline on the issue of change of leadership.

“How long will they (dissidents) wait and continue to drag the issue? What will happen to these boys (hinting at the young brigade in the dissident camp)? We want a solution to the ongoing crisis in the CLP at the earliest,” he said.

Sarma, who was present at a meeting of dissidents at the official chamber of senior Congress MLA Sarat Barkataki, ridiculed the chief minister’s statement yesterday that he would not resign from his post. The meeting was convened soon after Gogoi’s remarks and a senior AICC leader dismissing speculation about a change in leadership in Assam.

“The chief minister’s statement keeps changing, which is very surprising. He (Gogoi) has been sending people to Delhi to pressure the high command to give the decision on leadership issue in his favour,” Sarma said.

Considered to be one of the most influential ministers in the Gogoi cabinet, Sarma alleged that the constitution of 18 development councils and six autonomous councils was illegal. Assam PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita had told reporters after an iftar hosted at the New MLA Hostel in the state capital complex here last evening that he had been asked to resolve the CLP crisis. About 300 persons from different walks of life, including ministers and MLAs, had attended the iftar.