In what can be described as a high voltage drama, Assam health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday resigned from the cabinet and said he would fight more vigorously for the removal of Tarun Gogoi from the chief minister’s post. He and his supporters would also oppose Tarun Gogoi’s government on issues and principles concerning the people, he said.
Sarma’s announcement came one day after the Congress party decided not to remove Tarun Gogoi from the chief minister’s post as demanded by the health minister and some legislators who have been supporting him. Significantly, some senior Congress legislators who had earlier backed Sarma on Monday did not join his cavalcade to the Raj Bhavan.
“I have been telling the party high command that the Congress cannot win more than four seats in the Lok Sabha elections under Tarun Gogoi’s leadership. While we won only three, now I can say that our tally will come down to a single digit in the next state assembly elections if Gogoi continues to be the chief minister,” Sarma told a press conference here on Monday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Sarma went to the Raj Bhavan with 28 other Congress MLAs, met the governor and tendered his resignation there. But interestingly, while the anti-Gogoi camp was so long claiming its strength to be of 55 MLAs, there were only 28 others with Sarma.
“We don’t want to topple the Congress government. We will be in the party. But we will continue to oppose Tarun Gogoi’s policies, ineffectiveness and design to take the Congress to an all-time low,” Sarma said. Several senior Congress legislators like Rameswar Dhanowar, Gautam Bora, AK Dey and Binanda Saikia flanked him as Sarma addressed the media.
Sarma said he has been telling Sonia Gandhi for “quite sometime” that the party would not be able to win more than four seats in the Lok Sabha elections in Assam under Gogoi.
“We had told Sonia Gandhi four-five times. But we were advised to wait till the Lok Sabha elections, and said that if we (Congress) did not do well, then the high command would take corrective measures. But nothing happened. The high command sent Mallikarjun Kharge to Guwahati a few weeks back. As many as 55 (of the 78) MLAs demanded Gogoi’s removal. But even after that nothing happened,” Sarma said.
“Finally we have come to know that the Congress party had decided to retain Tarun Gogoi as chief minister. I was called to Delhi and told that while Gogoi would continue for some more time, I should work together with him. But there should be some administrative mechanism to work together. All that Gogoi told me yesterday was that he would reshuffle his ministry every four months. This will not take the Congress anywhere,” Sarma said.