Tarun Gogoi exhorts Ministers to bury differences ahead of 2014 polls

The ruling Congress dispensation in Assam, beset by dissidence drama for over a year now, on Saturday unanimously resolved to set aside all differences and put up a united front ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The Assam Congress Legislature Party (ACLP) held a three-hour-long special meeting, convened by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. It decided that all ministers and party legislators should together strive to win at least 12 or 13 of the total 14 Lok Sabha seats.

The special meeting was requisitioned by 32 disgruntled Congress legislators. The ruling Congress has 79 legislators, including an associate member, in the 126-member Assembly.

For over a year, signature campaigns have been run by loyalists and detractors of Mr. Gogoi alike. MLAs from both camps have made trips to New Delhi to petition Congress president Sonia Gandhi and top AICC leaders with allegations and counter-allegations.

During Saturday’s meeting, the legislators ventilated their grievances — several ministers were accused of not according adequate importance to development work in their respective Assembly constituencies.

“After listening to all of us, the Chief Minister exhorted us to work unitedly for the Lok Sabha polls. He told us that it was only because of the Congress party we have been able to become either minister or MLA and therefore we should stand united and work for the victory of our party in the Lok Sabha polls to strengthen the hands of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.

“Following his appeal, all of us assured him that we will stand united and work for the victory of Congress candidates in all the 14 Lok Sabha seats and Assam will create a record by giving the maximum number of seats this time,” said Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Mr. Sarma was addressing media persons with Environment and Forest Minister Rakibul Hussain — the two have been identified as belonging to rival camps — and senior Congress leaders Anjan Dutta and Chandan Sarkar. “A clear message has gone out [from the ACLP] to our grassroots workers that from today onward, there are [to be] no differences among us,” said Mr. Hussain.

Mr. Sarma has been projected as the leader of dissident legislators after his relationship with the Chief Minister turned bitter, while Mr. Hussain has been seen as a close confidant of Mr. Gogoi and a key strategist in the CM’s camp. In a bid to exemplify the message of unity, the two Ministers visited Mr. Gogoi together at his residence.

The Ministers said ACLP meetings would be held quarterly to facilitate more discussion among legislators.