Himanta Biswa Sarma
Guwahati, Aug. 6: Congress Legislature Party dissidents in the role of “constructive opposition” needled the government for the third straight day in the Assembly today with former minister and three-time MLA Himanta Biswa Sarma espousing the cause of lasting peace in the BTAD.
Sarma appealed to chief minister Tarun Gogoi to visit the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD) and try and build bridges among communities living there as police alone won’t be able to ensure peace there but his tone and tenor left none in doubt about his real objective — to embarrass Dispur, particularly Gogoi.
The BTAD has remained on the edge since the Kokrajhar riots in 2012 when over four lakh people were displaced and again after the Lok Sabha polls which left over 50 people dead in May, aggravating the distrust among communities living there.
“There has been recurrent violence in BTAD, which has created an impression that we have failed to protect a particular section of people. It has raised the question whether the government is sincere in solving the problem,” Sarma said during a debate on cut motion brought in by the Opposition on supplementary demand for regularisation of advance sanctioned to the state home department from the contingency fund in 2013-14.
“The police alone can’t solve the problem. Only political leadership can solve such a complicated problem. The chief minister should visit the BTAD once a month and hold discussions with the representatives of all communities and social organisations in order to get a grasp of the actual problem on the ground,” Sarma, who was a minister in the Gogoi cabinet for more than 11 years before his resignation last month, said.
He said attempts to control things from Guwahati would not bear any fruitful result. Steps to build bridges among communities living in the BTAD need to be taken on the ground.
“The chief minister should take responsibility instead of leaving it to the bureaucrats and police officials to solve the problem as bringing about reconciliation and unity among the communities by removing the differences holds the key if permanent peace has to return to the BTAD,” he said.
Sarma, who was leading the campaign to unseat Gogoi but was stopped in his track after the Congress high command put its foot down, said the BTAD clashes were a blot on the state.
Sarma also took a dig at Gogoi on Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), which recently snapped its ties with the Congress.
“When the BTC Accord was signed and Hagrama Mohilary became the BTC chief, the chief minister had described it as his highest political accomplishment. But now when the Mohilary-led BPF has withdrawn support from the state government, the same chief minister is saying that he is happy at BPF withdrawing support,” he said.
Yesterday, Sarma had taken up the cause of families of government servants who had died in harness while the day before he had tried to ensure the sanctity of the Speaker’s chair by asking the government to clarify whether it was associated with the move by two party MLAs to seek legal opinion on how to replace the Speaker.
Sarma’s supporters in the CLP, too, have not let go of any opportunity to needle the government.
Though the discomfort within the party rank and file is palpable, Gogoi has not reacted so far, continuing to maintain his silence as, party insiders said, he wants the smooth passage of the budget on which the government is banking to regain ground lost because of infighting.
“His silence since May has benefited him. So he will take extra care not to be seen as adding fuel to fire. Moreover, there is nothing wrong if our MLAs raise issues which may only benefit us in the long run,” a party insider said.
A meeting of the Tarun Gogoi cabinet will be held tomorrow evening to finalise the state budget to be presented next week. It is also likely to take a call on the plea to absorb the widow of slain police official Gulzar Hussain in a gazetted post, a demand that was raised yesterday.
Soon after Sarma’s sermons to Gogoi, AIUDF and BPF MLAs took on each other inside the House over the situation in the BTAD. A heated war of words ensued between them when suspended AIUDF MLA Sherman Ali Ahmed stated that Youth BPF members were named in the FIRs lodged in connection with the BTAD violence.