Guwahati, Sept. 1: Differences within the Congress government over the appointment of Assam Governor Lt Gen. (retd) S.K. Sinha for a second term today came out into the open with only six of the state’s 35 ministers attending the swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan.
Cabinet minister Bhumidhar Barman, one of the six who were present, claimed that “preoccupation with other duties” was the reason why the ministers had failed to turn up. Barman said most ministers were busy touring the flood-affected areas of the state.
However, Congress sources said that most ministers were “unhappy” with chief minister Tarun Gogoi’s endorsement of the Centre’s proposal for Sinha’s re-appointment.
Gogoi, too, missed the swearing in function as he is away in Delhi, recuperating from a spinal ailment.
Apparently aware of the resentment over his reappointment, Sinha sought to come clean on the issue of repealing the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act by stating that as the constitutional head of the state, his views were “in conformity with the present state government”.
Sinha is opposed to the idea of persisting with the Act. The Congress, however, is against scrapping the legislation. It considers the legislation to be a “safeguard against harassment of the minority community”.
Incidentally, none of the eight ministers from the minority community was present at Raj Bhavan.
The Governor said infiltration from across the border was continuing. “As the constitutional head, my stand is in conformity with the stand of the state government, whatever my personal stand may be,” he said.
Barman said that though the Governor may have individual reservations on the issue, as the constitutional head of the state, he would act on the advice of the Cabinet. The erstwhile Prafulla Kumar Mahanta government had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court, stating that the legislation be either scrapped or amended. The Gogoi government, however, filed a fresh affidavit, opposing the proposal to repeal it.
Apart from Barman, the Cabinet ministers present at today’s swearing-in ceremony are pwd minister Sarat Barkatoki, power minister Devanand Konwar, education minister Pankaj Bora and hill areas development minister g.c. Langthasa. Pradyut Bordoloi was the lone minister of state present at the venue.