Gogoi backs cornered Kalita

Guwahati, Jan. 17: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi today all but threw his weight behind PCC president Bhubaneswar Kalita, who has been facing flak for the ongoing turmoil in the party over distribution of party tickets for the three-phase panchayat elections.

This came to the fore at Rajiv Bhawan here this morning when Gogoi, while admitting to growing indiscipline, virtually ticked off senior MLA Anjan Dutta for having questioned Kalita's leadership and asserted that the party would do well in the rural polls starting January 30.

Dutta, an MLA and former transport minister, had allegedly attributed the present turmoil and growing indiscipline to the "weak leadership" of Kalita.

He even threatened to take up the matter with the party high command soon after the panchayat polls.

"Dutta should not have made such a comment. Let us wait for the outcome of the panchayat polls. I am fully confident that the party would do better this time than in previous polls. Feedback and information that I have received so far suggest that the Congress will gain more votes even in lower Assam and AIUDF-dominated areas," Gogoi said in the presence of Kalita.

Gogoi also said there were a few loopholes in the administration of his party that sometimes resulted in indiscipline and dissidence, particularly during the elections.

He, however, said such developments will not continue for long and have never affected the party much in the past.

Gogoi did a neat balancing act by not suggesting any action against Dutta. Neither did Kalita, who said the party has a very fair and transparent system of taking action against those involved in indiscipline and anti-party activities. Dutta is not only a senior leader but also one who is seen as the "conscience-keeper" of the party and the government. He has in the past even attacked the government in the Assembly.

"He is not just any politician. What he said was in interest of the party, which needs a lot of toning up. Dutta could become a rallying point for those disgruntled and disenchanted with both Gogoi and Kalita. He is better left alone," a senior party leader said.

"There is scope to improve the system of recruiting party workers at the grassroots. Membership drive should not be carried out randomly and some criteria must be adhered to so that the new members do not become a nuisance. But at the same time we must remember that the party cannot act like the army and other establishments where strict action is initiated in each and every incident of indiscipline. Some of the party members can express their opinions which may not keep the top brass in good humour," Gogoi said, adding that he, too, was rebuked by a senior party leader during his tenure as Assam PCC president.

Gogoi also expressed his unhappiness over the conduct of Hajo block members before distribution of party tickets, describing Hajo as a "problematic" area.

"The Hajo unit of the party has proved to be little problematic. But we are trying to sort out all problems. The party will, however, not tolerate any leader who takes laws into his hands," Gogoi said.

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