Tug of war over rebel Congress MLAs

State Congress president Anjan Dutta meets Sonia Gandhi, reiterates that indiscipline in party will not be tolerated

BY Our Staff Reporter

Guwahati, Sept 2: State Congress president Anjan Dutta today met party supremo Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi amidst claims and counter-claims over the number of Congress legislators readying to join the BJP.

While Himanta Biswa Sarma claimed that the BJP has cleared the first list of Congress MLAs who would join the party, Dutta said a number of his party legislators - who are alleged to be siding with Himanta Biswa Sarma - have pledged loyalty to the Congress.

"Mansingh Rongpi and Kripath Malla have conveyed to me that they are not joining the BJP. Another two MLAs - who had gone to greet Himanta Biswa Sarma at the airport - are also not leaving the party. I also doubt if all the six other remaining MLAs will join the BJP," Dutta said after meeting Gandhi.

Briefing about his meeting with the Congress president, Dutta said there will be no leniency for indiscipline in the party.

The State Congress president, however, indicated that if the rebel Congress legislators are "apologetic" the party "may consider it."

On the other hand, former minister Siddique Ahmed, who had accompanied Himanta Biswa Sarma to Raj Bhavan for submitting the latter's resigtion from the council of ministers, said he will be with the Congress.

PHE minister Chandan Sarkar, who was one among the Himanta-led Congress dissidents, said today when a MLA changes party, he should quit as a legislator. "It is his responsibility to resign as an MLA first before joining another party. After all, he had won the election in a Congress ticket and symbol," Sarkar said.

Sarkar also challenged BJP legislator Jadev Deka's claim that the Congress government in the State was on the verge of collapse.

When asked about his resigtion as an MLA, Himanta Biswa Sarma evaded a direct reply but said, "It is up to the Congress to take action…They can disqualify me. If they write to the Speaker, I will not contest it."

Amid this development, there are reports about the possibility of a ministry expansion by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. Four berths in the council of ministers are vacant for more than a year now.

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