The discussions in the Congress on the possibility of a change of guard in Assam appear to be reaching a final stage. The central leadership Sunday decided to send Mallikarjun Kharge, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, to Assam to talk to all stakeholders, including the MLAs, to gauge their mood.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who was to arrive here Sunday, is staying put in Guwahati after the central leadership conveyed him its decision to send Kharge on Monday. “I will meet everybody — MLAs, MPs, office-bearers and senior leaders,” Kharge told The Indian Express.
Though the Congress leadership is open to the idea of effecting a leadership change in Assam, it wants to know the mind of the MLAs and the party before taking a final call and deciding Gogoi’s successor. The anti-Gogoi camp led by Himanta Biswa Sarma claims to have the support of 46 of the 79 Congress MLAs.
Sources said though Sar-ma announced his decision to quit the Gogoi cabinet and end his two-year revolt, the infighting is far from over. “The opinion of the MLAs will be crucial. Let’s see what is on their mind,” said a senior leader.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had earlier appointed senior leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, general secretary in charge of Assam C P Joshi and Motilal Vora to resolve the crisis, which escalated after the Lok Sabha election debacle.
The party got only three seats in the state and the result was seen as a setback to 80-year-old Gogoi, who promptly offered to resign and conveyed his wish to Gandhi. The AICC chief, however, turned down his offer even as the demand for Gogoi’s removal grew.
Sources said Sarma decided to lie low after the central leadership assured him that his demand for a change of guard would be examined.
Sarma, who was once the most trusted lieutenant of Gogoi, started raising the banner of revolt after Gogoi’s son Gaurav joined the party in May 2012. Gaurav Gogoi was among the three Congress candidates who won this time.
Sources said the A K Antony panel, which was to meet leaders from Assam to review the poll debacle on Monday, would now meet the leaders on July 6. Gogoi and APCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita are scheduled to attend the meeting.