TO DELHI, VIA GUWA­HATI

Spec­u­la­tion has be­gun on who will be­come As­sam chief min­is­ter if Go­goi be­comes vice- pres­i­dent

India Today - - NATION - by Kaushik Deka

Ru­mours are swirling in po­lit­i­cal cir­cles of As­sam about a pos­si­ble change of guard in the Congress- led state gov­ern­ment. Congress Pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi met two Cab­i­net min­is­ters from the state in the last week of April, trig­ger­ing spec­u­la­tion that the party high com­mand is plan­ning to re­place Chief Min­is­ter Tarun Go­goi. Front- run­ners for the race are: Health and Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Hi­manta Biswa Sarma; In­dus­tries & Com­merce, Power and Public En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pradyut Bor­doloi; and Pan­chayat & Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment and En­vi­ron­ment & For­est Min­is­ter Rock­y­bul Hus­sain. Party sources say the ru­mours were started by the Bor­doloi camp to cre­ate a rift be­tween Sarma and Go­goi.

Ever since the 76- year- old Go­goi came back to power for the third con­sec­u­tive term with a land­slide vic­tory, his name has been do­ing the rounds as the coun­try’s next vice- pres­i­dent. Though Go­goi has time and again dis­missed such ru­mours and cat­e­gor­i­cally said that he was not in­ter­ested in “that hon­ourable po­si­tion”, party sources told IN­DIA TO­DAY that the Chief Min­is­ter has made up his mind about who will suc­ceed him.

“There is no ques­tion of Go­goi quit­ting in the near fu­ture. But if he has to go, the per­son most likely to re­place him is Hus­sain. He is young, en­er­getic and close to Go­goi’s son Gau­rav,” says a close aide of the Chief Min­is­ter. Be­ing a Mus­lim, he is con­sid­ered the best bet for the Congress to pre­vent the rise of the All In­dia United Demo­cratic Front which emerged as the sec­ond largest party with 18 seats in the last Assem­bly polls. “Hus­sain is ac­cept­able to the Hin­dus as he de­feated Asom Gana Parishad Pres­i­dent Pra­fulla Kumar Ma­hanta in the last Assem­bly polls in 2011,” adds the aide.

On April 21, Sarma met So­nia in Delhi. There were re­ports in the lo­cal me­dia that Sarma rec­om­mended Go­goi’s name as the Congress’s vice- pres­i­den­tial can­di­date to her. But Hus­sain rub­bished the re­ports. He said that the peo­ple of As­sam, the Congress Leg­is­la­ture Party and the As­sam Pradesh Congress Com­mit­tee ( APCC) wanted Go­goi to stay in the state. If re­quired, min­is­ters and of­fi­cer- bear­ers of the APCC would meet the high com­mand over the is­sue, he added.

Four days later, Bor­doloi also met So­nia and told the me­dia that he had re­quested the Congress pres­i­dent to al­low Go­goi to com­plete his term. Soon, sev­eral Congress min­is­ters and MLAS joined the clam­our to re­tain Go­goi in the state. “The high com­mand doesn’t want to re­move Go­goi from the Chief Min­is­ter’s post. He has the sup­port of most of the Congress min­is­ters and 57 MLAS,” says for­mer min­is­ter and cur­rent Amguri MLA An­jan Dutta.

Even As­sam Congress Pres­i­dent and Go­goi’s bête noire Bhubaneswar Kalita has stood by the Chief Min­is­ter and urged party lead­ers and work­ers to main­tain dis­ci­pline and come out of petty ru­mour- based pol­i­tics. “The party needs Go­goi more than Go­goi needs the party,” he says. A se­nior min­is­ter told IN­DIA TO­DAY: “Go­goi’s de­par­ture would trig­ger an in­tense power strug­gle which could prove costly in the pan­chayat and Lok Sabha elec­tions.”

But Go­goi seems sure of his po­lit­i­cal fu­ture. “I don’t keep tabs on who meets whom in Delhi. If party asks me to go, I will go. As of now, I’m com­mit­ted to the de­vel­op­ment of As­sam,” he told IN­DIA TO­DAY.

GO­GOI

SARMA

HUS­SAIN

BOR­DOLOI

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