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Sarma move surprises Gogoi Quit-letter blow to CM

- ALL THE DISSIDENT MEN

Guwahati, July 21: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has said that he was completely taken by surprise when he came to know that Himanta Biswa Sarma had gone to meet the governor to submit his resignation from the council of ministers.

At a press statement soon after Sarma’s resignation, Gogoi said Sarma had met him last evening at his official residence and had also promised to come back for further discussions along with some MLAs at 10pm. Later he called up to inform that they would come this evening. This meeting stood cancelled.

The three-term chief minister’s statement came within an hour after a news conference by Sarma where he made several allegations against Gogoi. The chief minister not only refuted the allegations but also asserted that he did not require a certificate from anybody to prove his commitment to the Congress party.

This is the second time Gogoi has forcefully reacted to public statements by the Sarma-led dissident camp seeking change of the CLP leader since May.

The last time he spoke on the dissidence was against minister of state Siddique Ahmed who had told the media over 10 days back that a section of Congress MLAs would boycott the Assembly session from August 4 and stage a dharna before Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi seeking change of leadership. Gogoi had promised action against him and sources said he had written to the AICC leadership on Friday seeking action against the dissidents.

Gogoi yesterday held the meeting with Sarma after the Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel called the chief minister with a request to hold talks with Sarma who returned to Guwahati on Sunday. During the course of the discussions last evening, Gogoi claimed he had suggested to Sarma that wider discussions be held between different groups to arrive at a consensus. He further claimed that Sarma was also in favour of wider discussions. “Sarma was to have held discussions with his colleagues and come for further discussion at 10pm at chief minister’s residence. However, he later informed over phone last night that he would come along with some MLAs in the evening today,” Gogoi said.

A dissident MLA said there is no point attending the meeting. “Sarma’s news conference this afternoon had made everything clear and provided us with a roadmap. We will work for the party and try to ensure its victory in 2016 polls,” the MLA said.

Gogoi denied suggesting a reshuffle of his ministry after every four months to Sarma during discussions last night. “I have never said such a vague thing. How can one change a ministry after every four months? This allegation has no basis,” Gogoi said.

He said in his chequered political career since 1971, he has never played communal politics as alleged by Sarma. “I have been a disciplined soldier of the Congress party and my credentials are known to all. I have always worked for the party’s interest. My stand and commitment towards the party is well known. I do not require any certificate from anyone,” he added.

At least 10 cars with Sarma in the front one entered Raj Bhavan. He met the governor and submitted his resignation from the Gogoi cabinet around noon. Prominent among those who accompanied Sarma included ministers Siddique Ahmed and Ardhendu Kumar Dey, MLAs Hemanta Talukdar, Mansingh Rongpi, Habul Chakraborty and Sumitra Patir. Young MLAs Pijush Hazarika, Rekibuddin Ahmed, Pallab Lochan Das, among others, looked confident. Another young MLA, Jayanta Malla Baruah was seen driving Sarma’s car as they came out of the Raj Bhavan around 12.45pm. None of them spoke to reporters waiting outside.