The Telegraph
Friday , June 6 , 2014
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Focus on governance

- Dissidents meet to discuss stand on Gogoi, adopt wait-and-watch policy

Guwahati, June 5: The power struggle within the ruling Congress seems to have entered its last leg with chief minister Tarun Gogoi putting in place an action plan to cap the fire raging within the CLP.

A tightlipped Gogoi, who returned this afternoon, left everyone guessing about the steps he was taking to resolve the crisis. But party insiders told The Telegraph that Gogoi and his team of MLAs and MPs have started working on dissident/disgruntled legislators within and outside the state capital.

Gogoi was calm and relaxed while meeting party leaders, MLAs and ministers who called on him at his Koinadhara residence this evening. It seemed to suggest he was not quitting as most had expected and that he may still have something up his sleeve to salvage his position without “compromising” too much.

A party leader who met Gogoi this evening said his immediate focus would be to initiate reconciliatory steps and subsequently put in place a council of ministers that will be able to give a fresh direction to governance to win the confidence of the masses.

Governance has been badly affected as ministers and MLAs are busy campaigning for and against Gogoi this past year.

Since Gogoi has not revealed his plans except the reconciliation bit to his supporters, sources said his options (see chart) are limited.

They said most MLAs, including those with him, are unhappy with Gogoi and the AICC for allowing things to drift but are not sure whether his replacement will help the party in the 2016 Assembly polls.

A section within the CLP said no matter who the chief minister is, it will be difficult to accommodate all as ministers and parliamentary secretaries. The size of the state ministry is 19 while the Congress has 77 MLAs.

“We are facing a crisis of plenty. Most of our MLAs are more than two-time winners. They also have aspirations, which Gogoi or the person who succeeds him — if he has to eventually go — will not be in a position to meet. The need of the hour is reconciliation,” an MLA said.

While both camps were sizing each other up by not revealing their mind, there was also apprehension among party leaders and a section of MLAs who feel the infighting could cost them dear in 2016 Assembly elections if the situation is allowed to drift. This section could play a significant role in any covert/overt reconciliatory move.

The chairman of the PCC’s media department and senior party functionary Haren Das, without commenting on the crisis as it was being handled by the AICC, suggested as much by asserting that the need of the hour was to project a “united face” as the Congress’ rivals — the BJP and AIUDF — were gearing up for the Assembly polls.

The Congress fared badly in the Lok Sabha polls, winning only three of the 14 seats while both the BJP (7) and AIUDF (3) gained at its expense.

Around the time Gogoi landed in Guwahati today, the dissident Congress MLAs, owing allegiance to cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, met at the official residence of senior legislator Sarat Borkataky to discuss their stand if Gogoi invited them for talks.

The MLAs and ministers, including Sarma, Gautam Roy, Ardhendu Kumar Dey, Chandan Sarkar and Pijush Hazarika, discussed their strategy for nearly two hours. Like Gogoi, they were silent about the details/outcome of the meeting.

“The chief minister has just arrived. Let’s see what happens. We are yet to decide the steps we are going to take,” minister of state Siddique Ahmed said.

Sources said some of the MLAs suggested they should not take part in discussions with Gogoi without the presence of an AICC observer.

The Sarma camp is also likely to adopt a wait-and-watch policy till Gogoi spells out his plans.

Asked whether they were still firm on their demand for change of leadership, one of them said, “We have informed our stand to the party high command and we will go by whatever decision it takes.”

The MLAs of the Sarma camp will have a breakfast meeting at the residence of minister Ardhendu Dey’s residence tomorrow.

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