Apparently backed by the Congress high command, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi tonight cracked down on dissidents pressing for his ouster sacking two ministers and accepting the resignation of top rebel leader Himant Biswa Sarma.
Irrigation and Soil Conservation Minister Ardhendu Dey and Cooperation and Border Areas Minister Siddique Ahmed were removed from the ministry and the resignation of Health and Education Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma's resignation was accepted and forward to the Governor, Chief Minister's Office sources said. They said the two ministers were dropped for "going against" the government and the CM and also for "anti-party" activities.
Gogoi officially conveyed to Governor JB Patnaik about the dimissal of the two ministers, the sources added. Gogoi conveyed to Congress President Sonia Gandhi about Himanta's resignation and forwarded his letter to Patnaik, according to the sources. The action by Gogoi against the dissidents came a day after the Congress central leadership described the rebellion in Assam, as also by Narayan Rane in Maharashtra, as driven by some leaders' "personal ambition".
Himanta Biswa Sarma had met Patnaik yesterday and submitted his resignation. He claimed he met the Governor along with 38 MLAs and expressed no-confidence in the Chief Minister. Sarma and other dissidents in Congress in Assam began gunning for Gogoi soon after the party's poor show in Lok Sabha elections. Sarma refused to contest the next assembly polls in the state, due in less than two years, under Gogoi's leadership and alleged Congress's strength in the assembly would be reduced to a single digit if Gogoi remains the leader.
Hitting back, Gogoi today said "the people of Assam are politically mature enough to know that Himanta's resignation was a drama". Gogoi said he has seen the worst days for the party in Assam and did not need the certificate from anyone after having been in politics for fifty years.
Prior to the sacking of the two ministers and acceptance of Sarma's resignation today, the Tarun Gogoi ministry comprised 17 ministers, including 4 ministers with independent charge.