GUWAHATI: The expansion of the near two-year-old Sarbananda Sonowal Ministry in Assam on Thursday caused heartburns.
The BJP’s lone Muslim MLA Aminul Haque Laskar and another senior MLA of the party Prashanta Phukan resigned from some committees in protest.
Later, in a virtual revolt, both criticised the BJP leadership. Laskar, who resigned from the Haj Committee, said the Muslims in the state were pained as none from the community was inducted into the ministry.
“I wonder if this is the first cabinet since Independence that doesn’t have a single representative from the religious minority community. If the Chief Minister could pick members from almost all communities, why not from the minority community?” he asked.
Phukan said he had resigned as the chief of BJP’s Steering Committee for Panchayat Elections and the Governing Body of Assam Medical College and Hospital as he thought he was not fit for the posts.
“Since I am not fit to be a Minister, I thought I shouldn’t head the two bodies either. So, I resigned from both,” Phukan, the Dibrugarh MLA, told reporters. It has been for 25 years that Dibrugarh has not got a Minister, he lamented.
Actress-turned-politician, Angoorlata Deka, whose name was doing the rounds but eventually not picked, said she had no regrets. “I didn’t dream about becoming a Minister. So, I have no regrets on not being picked,” she said.
The state’s Finance, Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said some senior MLAs were ignored in order to fulfil regional aspirations.
“It is obvious that some MLAs will not feel good about it but I don’t think their resentment will come to the fore,” he said.
Sonowal inducted seven MLAs – five from BJP and one each from BJP’s allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) – into his ministry. Four of them were Cabinet ministers and the three others were Ministers of State with independent charge.
The Cabinet ministers were Phani Bhushan Choudhury (AGP), Siddhartha Bhattacharya (BJP), Sum Ronghang (BJP) and Chandan Brahma (BPF) while the Ministers of State with independent charge were Piyush Hazarika, Bhabesh Kalita and Tapan Gogoi (all from BJP). Brahma is a former militant leader and Gogoi is a former student leader.
In the 126-member Assam House, the size of the Ministry cannot exceed 19. So far, 18 have been inducted and the last post has been kept vacant apparently for exigency.