Guwahati: In what may further dent the vote bank of the Opposition Congress, infighting within the rank and file of the party has come to light once again with 12 party MLAs writing to All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi, seeking a change of the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Debabrata Saikia.
The development comes close on the heels of former chief minister and octogenarian Congress leader Tarun Gogoi expressing his willingness to take over the reins of the state Congress from incumbent Ripun Bora, following the party’s debacle in the recent by-polls to four Assembly seats.
It is significant that the Congress not only failed to win any seat in the by-polls but also lost the minority-dominated traditional seat of Jonia to the AIUDF which came into existence in 2005 because of the differences bet-ween Mr Gogoi and some Muslim leaders.
Mr Gogoi, however, dismissed rumours that he sought the sacking of Mr Bora as state party president when he met Mrs Gandhi in New Delhi Monday.
“I met the party president Monday but I did not discuss any matter regarding the party’s organisational affairs. We discussed a lot of national issues,” Mr Gogoi said.
A day later, the group of MLAs, known as the Tarun Gogoi loyalists, wrote to the Congress president, “Madam, we being the main Opposition in the Assem-bly, should have been able to highlight the failures (of the Assam government) and should have made a scathing attack on the ruling party in every session. But, we have miserably failed because of the poor leadership of our CLP. Our CLP leader Debabrata Saikia is neither vocal nor does he remain alert in the Assembly. He is timid and his voice is hardly heard. Consequently, we have missed many vital issues in the Assembly.”
The MLAs added in their letter, “Madam, we still have two years till the 2021 Assembly elections, and we should be very serious and play a very effective role in the house from now on to corner the government.”
Under the circumstances, as stated above and in the greater interest of the party, we, the following members of the Assam Legislative Assembly would like to request you to kindly change the CLP leadership immediately and appoint a vocal and effective member with legislative experience for the past many years in consultation with the state high command of the party.”
Mr Saikia however refuted the allegation that he was non-committal on key issues during proceedings in the Assembly. “I may have a low voice but that is a natural drawback, if that is what they want to say. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the most successful Indian PM and he is the tallest economist at the global level, and is still so soft-spoken,” Mr Saikia said.
Assam Congress president Mr Bora also clarified, “I am a soldier of the party and whatever instructions the party high command gives, I am ready to follow them. Change of leadership is not an unusual phenomenon. But, it is under my leadership that the Congress in Assam won three seats in the last Lok Sabha elections, in which the party could not win a single seat in 22 states.” He however refused to engage in any diatribe while asserting that the party will have to work at the grassroots level to strengthen the morale of the party workers.