Assam's rebel minister quits, blames CM
Assam's rebel minister Himanta Biswa Sarma Monday resigned from the state cabinet, saying it was not possible for him "mentally, physically and politically" to work under Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.
Sarma, who was holding the portfolio of health and education, however, made it clear that there was no threat to the Congress government in the state as of now.
"Our intentions are not to topple the government. It would set a bad precedent. There is no threat to the government and we are going to allow the government to function," said Sarma.
As a disciplined soldier of the Congress party, the 45-year-old leader said he and other dissident legislators would obey any whip issued by the party.
Notably, over 50 Congress legislators had given a representation to senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, when he visited the state last month, and demanded a change in the state leadership.
"We are not going to defy the party high command and that is the reason why we are going to obey if any whip is issued. However, from today (Monday) on we are going to oppose the anti-people policies of the government both within and outside the assembly, Sarma said.
"From tomorrow (Tuesday) on we are going to fight from within the party to dislodge Tarun Gogoi as the chief minister," he said at a press conference here after tendering his resignation to Governor Janaki Ballabh Patnaik.
Monday, 27 Congress legislators accompanied Sarma to Raj Bhavan and rallied behind him when he was addressing the media at his official residence here.
"I had told the party high command several times that Congress is not going to win more than four seats in the just concluded Lok Sabha polls," he said. The high command did not pay heed and as a result, the party won only three seats in Assam.
"However, I came to know that the AICC has decided to retain Tarun Gogoi as the chief minister and wanted me and him to work together."
"I met him (Gogoi) last (Sunday) night. After meeting him, I felt that it is not possible for me to work under Gogoi mentally, physically and politically. So, I have resigned and I am not going to withdraw my resignation," he said.
"If this situation continues and Tarun Gogoi continues to be the chief minister, the Congress cannot win more than 10 to 15 seats in the state assembly polls in 2016," he said.
He, however, added that the party can revamp if a balanced chief minister is appointed.
Sarma, a minister since 2004, also clarified that he is not in the race to become chief minister.
"I am not the Congress chief ministerial candidate. Even if the AICC offers me the chief ministers' post, I would not accept it now," he said.
Last week, the dissident group in the Congress had set a deadline for the party high command to take a decision on change of leadership.
However, there was no move from the All India Congress Committee (AICC) on their demand while the deadline ended Saturday.
Gogoi, who brought the party to victory in 2001, has been facing dissidence for over two years.
The recent debacle in the Lok Sabha made the situation even worse for Gogoi as the dissidents revived their demand for change in the party leadership in the state.
(Posted on 21-07-2014)