Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Dispur: The Assam unit of the Congress party is apparently divided over the continuation of Tarun Gogoi as Chief Minister as over 40 dissident MLAs have threatened to dislodge him as the leader of Congress Legislature Party (ACLP) if the central leadership fails to pay heed to their demand.
It was reported on Thursday that as many as 40 Congress MLAs have demanded the immediate removal of Gogoi and asked the party high command to announce its decision by July 19.
The disgruntled MLAs are also likely to hold a press conference later today where they will reiterate their demand for removing Gogoi as the Chief Minister and the leader of Assam Congress Legislature Party.
A report on the political situation prevailing in Assam has been submitted by Mallikarjun Kharge, party`s in-charge of the state, to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Kharge had met the disgruntled MLAs last month and discussed the situation.
The 78-year-old Gogoi has been facing dissidence for over two years and over 40 MLAs, including four Cabinet ministers, had told Kharge that they did not want Gogoi as their leader. According to sources, Sonia Gandhi was initially opposed to Gogoi but after party vice president Rahul Gandhi threw his weight behind the Assam Chief Minister, she now wants him to continue at least till November.
After the party`s recent Lok Sabha debacle, Assam Congress dissidents have now decided to defy Sonia`s will. "We have waited enough for the AICC to take a decision. We will call for a requisition meeting of the ACLP on July 21 and remove Gogoi as the leader. Then we will announce our leader and form an alternative government. We have the numbers and have already got support from other parties," said a member of the dissident camp led by Assam education and health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
The rift between Gogoi and 46-year-old Sarma, once the chief minister`s most trusted aide, started after Gogoi`s son, Gaurav, who won 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Kaliabor, joined politics in 2011.
The Congress has 77 members in the 126-member Assembly and around 40 dissident MLAs are likely to support the move against Gogoi. AIUDF leader Abdur Rahim Khan and AGP leader Lachit Bordoloi told mediapersons in Guwahati that they had received communication from the dissident camp and were "giving a positive thought to the proposal" for support to a government formed by the anti-Gogoi faction.
AIUDF has 18 members while AGP has 9. The Bodoland People`s Party (BPF), which snapped its eight-year-long alliance with Congress last month, is also likely to support the Sarma camp. The party has 12 members in the Assembly. According to sources, the AGP is even ready to join the government.
Though Sarma has refused to comment on these developments but three of his aides - Pradan Baruah, Binanda Saikia and Mansing Rongpi - did not deny these reports.
The Congress leadership had earlier rejected Gogoi`s offer to resign from the chief minister`s post, after the party`s debacle in the national election last month. But this time, the pressure from the dissidents in the party`s state unit, led by Himanta Biswa Sharma, has forced the Congress leadership to rethink.