Guwahati, July 19: AICC secretary Bhupen Kumar Borah today appealed to dissidents in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) not to stick to their Monday deadline for the party high command to take a decision on the leadership issue in Assam.
A senior member of the dissident group also distanced himself from the ultimatum.
Five legislators of the dissident camp, led by cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, had served an ultimatum to the party high command on Thursday on behalf of their group to take a decision on their demand for change of leadership in the CLP by Saturday, failing which, they had said, they would take “appropriate steps” on Monday.
Borah told a section of reporters here that since the AICC had formally invited senior Congress legislator Sarat Borkataky (dissident camp) to discuss the crisis in the CLP, he being an AICC secretary had requested the dissident MLAs not to stick to the Monday deadline.
“I have already held discussions with Borkataky and two other senior MLAs of the party, Abdul Muhib Mazumdar and Bidya Singh Engleng (both in dissidents camp), on the issue. I am also trying to get in touch with Sarma to discuss the same,” Borah, who represents Bihpuria Assembly constituency in Lakhimpur district, said.
Borkataky, who is scheduled to leave for Delhi on Monday with senior MLAs Mazumdar and Engleng, tried to distance himself from the ultimatum today by telling reporters here, “I have not given any such ultimatum.” The remark came soon after Borah addressed reporters.
While Borkataky refused to elaborate, party insiders said a meeting was held at his house on Friday night. It was attended by Sarma and Pradan Baruah, a senior MLA who was among the five who issued the ultimatum. They said there was as much concern as expectations of a “new dawn on Monday” as tweeted by Sarma last evening because a negative response from the high command may complicate the issue. Borkataky’s distancing himself is being viewed as an attempt by the dissident camp to “cool down” matters as the AICC is understood to have been very cut up with the ultimatum. The dissident camp was abuzz with activity today with Sarma leaving for Delhi in the morning. Though Sarma told the media that he was going to Dehradun on a private visit, sources said he was expected to meet the high command to settle the dissidence issue.
Sarma was accompanied by Kamalakshya De Purkayastha, an MLA from Barak Valley and a member of the dissident camp.
Nalbari MLA Jayanta Malla Barooah from the Sarma camp, said, “Let us see how things move. I hope that the high command will take an appropriate decision. I will wait and watch.”
The dissidents had said on Thursday that there was no option other than set the Monday deadline since the high command had not yet acted on senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s report recommending a change in leadership.
Borah, considered close to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, said he was not in a position to comment on Kharge’s report. He, however, said the party high command would take some more time to respond to the report.
“I hope that everyone in the Congress will finally remain united as a party. The crisis must end and the call of the high command will be final. I am sure everyone will abide by the high command’s decision,” he added.
Senior MLA Anjan Dutta, a key player in the CLP crisis who is sought after by both the camps, met AICC general secretary C.P. Joshi in Delhi yesterday and is expected to meet AICC top brass Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi on Monday to offer his suggestions on ending the crisis.
Dutta, sources said this evening, has conveyed to the high command that it should resolve the dissidence before deciding to change Gogoi, whom he wants to continue by reshuffling his team till everything is sorted out. Otherwise, the next person in charge would always remain at the mercy of a “new” dissident group. Dutta also wants the AICC top brass to take a decisive stand on the issue besides taking action against those who don’t toe the party line.
There is a growing concern among party leaders that changing Gogoi now could bolster dissidence in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya where the Congress is in power. A section feels that, if required, the party should sacrifice the government and revive it with people who believe in party ideology and culture.
The Gogoi camp, like the chief minister, appeared relaxed. “What is there to say? We have not issued any ultimatum. We have already reposed our faith in the high command and await its decision,” a senior member of the camp said.