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Cong on edge as day of reckoning looms

- Himanta meets Gogoi to dicuss political scenario, another meeting today
Sarma

Guwahati, July 20: Tomorrow could well be the day of reckoning for the ruling Congress in Assam.

Health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is believed to be leading the dissident group in the Congress Legislature Party for change of leadership, told a few reporters this afternoon at LGBI Airport at Borjhar here that everything would happen on Monday. “Let all of us wait for tomorrow,” he said.

A few hours later though he tweeted: “CM has invited me for a discussion today at 8pm. However, I have not sought any appointment with him. I am just waiting for Monday. Of course I will meet him as I am still a minister in his cabinet.”

Sources said Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel called chief minister Tarun Gogoi this afternoon and personally requested him to hold a meeting with Sarma.

“Sarma had yesterday sent a letter to Sonia seeking her intervention to avert a crisis after it became clear that the high command would not bow to the dissidents ultimatum to replace the chief minister by Monday fearing similar demands from other Congress-ruled states,” a party insider said.

Sarma had a meeting with Gogoi at his official residence for about 15 minutes. Sarma later said he had discussed about the current political scenario with the chief minister.

He said there would be another meeting with Gogoi tomorrow evening. Tomorrow’s meeting will be attended by Sarma and other members of the dissident group. Members of the Gogoi camp will also attend the meeting.

Sarma had tweeted on Friday that there would be a new dawn and beginning on Monday. “There will be a new political milestone tomorrow,” Sarma said this evening, evading journalists’ questions whether that implies the end of dissidence.

Former minister Ripun Bora, who is close to Gogoi, said, “The members of dissident group have realised the futility of their actions and they should come for reconciliation.” Bora met the chief minister this evening.

On other hand, Sarma’s ministerial colleague Siddique Ahmed said, “I am expecting to see a change of chief minister on Monday.”

Raju Sahu, another Congress MLA said a section of legislators (around 30) from the dissident camp would meet governor J.B. Patnaik on the issue of change of leadership in the CLP.

However, another senior CLP member from the dissident group, Chandan Sarkar, distanced himself from the ultimatum.

“We are all loyal to the high command. Its decision will be final. I am not part of the Monday deadline to take a decision on the change of leadership in the state,” he told reporters this afternoon.

Sarat Borkataky, who is leaving for talks with the high command along with two other senior MLAs tomorrow, yesterday distanced himself from the ultimatum soon after AICC secretary Bhupen Kumar Borah appealed to the dissidents not to stick to the Monday deadline.

Sources said though the dissident camp is sticking to the deadline, there are efforts by the senior party leaders and MLAs (even those in the dissident camp) to work out an acceptable solution.

“There should not be any situation which threatens the continuity of the present government owing to dissidence in the CLP. There are reports of around 26 dissident legislators quitting the party in a do-or-die bid to force the AICC to take decision on the leadership issue. Efforts are on to reach out to these MLAs,” a source said.

Sarkar’s attempt to distance himself from the ultimatum was being viewed as an attempt by the dissident camp to “cool down” things with the AICC understood to have been very cut up with the ultimatum.

Another dissident MLA, Rekibuddin Ahmed, said, “Monday will carry good news for everyone in the Congress. We are concerned about the party. Whatever will happen tomorrow will be good for the party.”

The Telegraph had reported today that there was a growing concern among party leaders that changing Gogoi now could bolster dissidents in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya, where the Congress is in power.

A section feels if required, the party should be ready to sacrifice the government and revive it with people who believe in the Congress ideology and culture.