GUWAHATI: In an attempt to keep his flock together and save his government ahead of the next year’s Assembly elections, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi on Monday appointed 13 party MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.Official sources said the Chief Minister would administer the oath on Wednesday.
The move came after the Congress insisted that Gogoi fulfil an earlier commitment that he had made to a group of disgruntled MLAs.
“He had made a commitment to the MLAs and he fulfilled it by appointing them as parliamentary secretaries. One must not read too much into it,” Congress spokesperson Apurba Bhattacharya told Express.
The newly-appointed parliamentary secretaries includes Rumi Nath, who was earlier arrested for her alleged nexus with the kingpin of a pan-India gang of car-lifters. She had spent some weeks in jail before being granted bail by the court.
The appointment of the MLAs as parliamentary secretaries came within days after a group of nine other Congress legislators had met BJP national president Amit Shah at his New Delhi residence and expressed their desire to join the BJP.
Earlier, four of these MLAs were suspended from the Congress for four years and five others served showcause notices for anti-party activities.
While some of them had accompanied former minister and Gogoi’s bete noire Himanta Biswa Sarma on his return journey from New Delhi on the day he joined the BJP, others had gone to the airport to receive him.
After meeting Shah, the MLAs had told reporters that they would soon join the BJP formally.
But that has not happened as yet, ostensibly due to the opposition from a section of BJP leaders. If they join the BJP, the Congress strength in the 126-member House would come down to 68.
Some of the MLAs appointed as parliamentary secretaries on Monday belonged to the camp of Sarma, who had earlier made an abortive bid to unseat the Chief Minister.
The Congress sources said Gogoi would soon expand his ministry by inducting former ministers Gautam Roy and Siddeque Ahmed in it.
Currently, four portfolios are lying vacant. Ahmed was earlier dropped from the ministry for his “anti-party” activities. He was with Sarma when a group of Congress legislators, led by Sarma, had raised the banner of revolt against Gogoi.