The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cong lobby guns for 16 scalps

Guwahati, May 27: A group of Assam legislators today mounted pressure on chief minister Tarun Gogoi to drop “non-performing” ministers, in whose Assembly segments the Congress candidates secured less votes than their rivals in the Lok Sabha elections.

A senior MLA of the “Group of 37,” as the legislators have come to be known in political circles, said the demand was verbally conveyed to Gogoi “so that he can take the right decision when the ministry is downsized shortly”.

The 37 legislators, led by Chandan Sarkar, have become a pressure group of sorts for the chief minister with their constant demand for inclusion in the ministry.

The legislator said the group had mentioned 16 ministers, including several of cabinet rank, who could be axed.

They include education minister Pankaj Bora, agriculture minister Ardhendu Dey, urban development minister Hem Prakash Narayan, labour minister Rameswar Dhanowar, handloom and textile minister Hemo Prabha Saikia and industry minister Bhubaneswar Kalita.

The demand comes close on the heels of the chief minister asking his ministers to submit an analytical report on the party’s performance in their respective constituencies.

The last date for downsizing the ministry is July 6.

The Group of 37 had created a crisis in the government last year by demanding a rotation of representation in the ministry.

This time, the group has demanded inclusion of legislators, who have so far been denied ministerial berths. But unlike last year, they have decided not to go public with their demands this time.

When contacted, Sarkar refused to comment on the development. “I will not say anything on this,” he said.

Sarkar, however, admitted that they had urged the chief minister not to retain certain ministers.

He also said they were against inclusion of those ministers, who had publicly aired their views against the government and the party.

Power minister Devananda Konwar recently demanded that the home department under the chief minister should be put under the scanner in connection with the multi-crore crude oil theft cases after transport minister Anjan Dutta alleged that several senior police officials were involved in the racket.

Sarkar also demanded that the PCC should be reconstituted in the interest of the party.

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