BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, Sept 22: With the induction of two new ministers, the total strength of the Tarun Gogoi cabinet on Tuesday went up to 16. The two entrants who took oath of office today are powerful Congressmen of Barak Valley Gautam Roy and Siddique Ahmed. The expansion comes at a time when hardly eight months are left for the Assembly elections. Both the ministers were administered the oath by Governor PB Acharya in Raj Bhawan at 11.10 am. Both took their oath in Bengali. Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, his ministers, parliamentary secretaries and many other distinguished guests attended the ceremony. Gautam Roy has been allotted the Social Welfare department while Siddique Ahmed will be in charge of Power, Industry and Commerce departments.
It needs mentioning that four berths in the cabinet were lying vacant since July last year, for which development was hampered to a great extent. Even after the inclusion of Roy and Ahmed, two more berths are lying vacant.
However, the re-inclusion of these two leaders from Barak Valley have irked a section of Congressman in the State as both of them were earlier dropped from Tarun Gogoi’s cabinet. Gautam Roy was dropped for the dismal performance of the Congress in his constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, whereas Siddique Ahmed was dropped for accompanying Himanta Biswa Sarma to Raj Bhawan, when the latter went there to tender his resigtion from the ministry. Their re-inclusion in the cabinet has offended some bigwigs like that of East Guwahati MLA Capt Robin Bordoloi, who openly slammed the Chief Minister and the APCC a week back for their ‘infatuation with Barak’.
It may be mentioned that with the inclusion of Gautam Roy and Siddique Ahmed, the number of ministers from Barak Valley has gone up to 4, leaving aside the 4 parliamentary secretaries; the other two ministers are Ajit Singh and Girindra Mallick.
Meanwhile, interacting with the media soon after the oath taking ceremony, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi hinted to another expansion in the coming days. “Two ministries are still lying vacant. We will fill these too. Expansion will take place soon,” Gogoi said.
On being asked the reason behind the importance he is paying to Barak Valley, the Chief Minister said, “We will have to give importance to Barak Valley. This region is lagging behind in many aspects. From other parts too, there will be ministers. I’ll persolly ensure that equal treatment is meted to each and every part of the State.” Gogoi further added, “Earlier there were up to 35 ministers, but now the number has come down and so the pressure is more.”