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Assam CM shifts charge

- 4 ministers get additional portfolios, Narah reappointed
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi meets governor J.B. Patnaik in Guwahati on Wednesday. Picture by UB Photos

Guwahati, July 23: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today temporarily allocated additional portfolios to four of his ministers, a day after he accepted the resignation of cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and dropped Ardhendu Dey and Siddique Ahmed from his ministry.

The chief minister allocated the health and family welfare portfolio to Nazrul Islam, minister for food and civil supplies, consumer affairs and minority welfare, and that of education to Pradyut Bordoloi, minister for power, industries and commerce and public enterprises.

He entrusted agriculture and parliamentary affairs minister Nilamoni Sen Deka with the additional charge of irrigation and soil conservation, and Ajit Singh, minister of state (independent charge) for excise, sports and youth welfare, with cooperation.

While health and education portfolios were held by Sarma, Dey was the cabinet minister for irrigation and soil conservation and Ahmed held the responsibilities of cooperation and border areas development as a minister of state with independent charge.

With transport minister Chandan Brahma quitting early this month after coalition partner Bodoland Peoples’ Front severed its eight-year ties with the Congress, there are now four vacancies in the Gogoi cabinet.

Gogoi has kept the border areas development and transport portfolios with himself.

Sarma, once the most influential minister in the Gogoi cabinet, had resigned on Monday saying it was not “physically, mentally and politically possible to work under the chief minister”. A minister in the Gogoi cabinet for the past 13 years, Sarma had been leading dissidence in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) to unseat Tarun Gogoi for the last two years. He visited his office at the state secretariat in Dispur for the last time this afternoon and spent an hour there.

Sources said the axing of Dey and Ahmed was a pre-emptive strike by the chief minister because there were reports about the duo putting in their papers like Sarma in the next few days. Dey had been publicly saying that Sarma was their leader. Ahmed had on July 10 blamed the chief minister entirely for the violence in Bodoland Territorial Areas District.

Sources said the Congress high command had asked Gogoi to accept Sarma’s resignation and drop two other “rebel” ministers as part of its strategy to crack down on the dissidents in the CLP.

“Gogoi met Governor J.B. Patnaik at Raj Bhavan this evening and discussed the current political scenario and the plan to carry out the much-awaited reshuffle of his ministry,” a source said.

Bharat Chandra Narah was reappointed as press adviser to chief minister in the rank of cabinet minister. Narah had tendered his resignation to the chief minister to work for the party just before the Lok Sabha elections.

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