With barely eight months to go before the end of his third term, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has thought it fit to foist 13 more parliamentary secretaries upon the State. They will add to the 11 existing parliamentary secretaries, each drawing a monthly salary of Rs 1 lakh with perks — though it is anybody’s guess what contributions they have been making to the State’s development. In fact, the existing parliamentary secretaries have openly complained many a time of not being taken into confidence by the departmental ministers concerned, not entrusted with files to work upon, and not allotted even an office to sit in. Now the Chief Minister has more than doubled the number of unproductive parliamentary secretaries, who will doubtless add to the burdens of a State in deep fiscal crisis. In the coming days, Gogoi will top this move by filling up the four vacant cabinet berths to have his full complement of 18 ministers. Along with advisors enjoying cabinet rank like Pradyut Bordoloi and Nilamanisen Deka, as well as some influential MLAs heading corporations and other public bodies, Gogoi is now ready to play the cynical endgame in the political chess-board for the 2016 assembly elections.
The people of this State can therefore bid goodbye to any hopes for development for at least a year until a new government takes over with a strong mandate for change. Himanta Biswa Sarma having joined the BJP and nine MLAs in his camp itching to cross over, the Congress now has an effective strength of 67-odd legislators. Placating them all with loaves and fishes of office to ward off further dissidence while countering the BJP’s likely gameplan, appears to be the be-all and end-all of Tarun Gogoi’s ministry expansion exercise. Anxious to neutralise the BJP’s perceived advantage among the Bengali Hindus in Barak valley after the Centre’s move to regularise the ‘minority’ refugees from Bangladesh, Gogoi is likely to re-induct as ministers Gautam Roy and Siddique Ahmed from Barak. The duo will then join their Barak compatriots Girindra Mallick and Ajit Singh in the cabinet, unless they are re-shuffled. The Chief Minister has already taken in three Barak MLAs as parliamentary secretaries this time, mely Kamalakshya Dey Purkayastha, Jamaluddin Ahmed and Rumi th. Shamefully, Gogoi found space for Rumi th even though she happens to be out on bail with allegations of her involvement with a car-theft gang under investigation. Her induction speaks volumes of Gogoi’s contemptuous disregard for rising public insistence on probity and accountability from its representatives and functiories.
By including as many as eight ex-followers of Himanta Biswa as parliamentary secretaries and likely inclusion of a known detractor like Siddique Ahmed as minister, the Chief Minister may seek to plug the gaps for exodus of Congressmen to the BJP or the AIUDF as of now. But MLAs like Captain Robin Bordoloi publicly venting grievances as to why Guwahati with all its four Congress representatives does not figure in Gogoi’s scheme of things while Barak valley does — is a pointer for more turbulence ahead. The only thing that seems working for Gogoi at present is that the State BJP is presenting anything but a united house to the people. Its leaders have been talking in different voices about the inclusion of rebel Congress elements, the party’s likely chief ministerial candidate and other public issues. The saffron party’s wooing of Bengali Hindu voters has put it on a collision course with student, youth and political organisations swearing by the Assam Accord. The drift in the State BJP is unlikely to be given a course correction by Central leaders until after the Bihar elections in October, by which time the present Assam BJP president’s term will come to an end. How the State BJP resolves its leadership problems along with the Himanta Biswa factor, and how it positions itself amongst the six ethnic groups demanding ST status — will determine what defensive gambit Tarun Gogoi will play to cling on to power for a fourth term.