There were differences of opinion within the party over the demand for a change in the leadership, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said today, after an hour-long meeting with party observer Mallikarjun Kharge.
"Differences of opinion are there. Some want change in the leadership," Gogoi said after his meeting with Kharge, who was sent here by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to assess the political situation following demands by dissidents for a change in the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leadership.
"Congress has to be united and work together to fight against the NDA and BJP. We have to face the next Lok Sabha polls," the chief minister said. Asked what could be the outcome of Kharge's visit, Gogoi said, "I cannot predict Kharge's report. He gave a patient hearing to each one's views. The ultimate decision will be taken by the high command."
Besides, meeting Gogoi yesterday and also this morning, Kharge met ministers, 71 MLAs, MPs and Congress leaders individually on the matter. "Yesterday and today I met MLAs, MPs, Chief Minister, APCC president, Vice-President, office bearers, district Congress leaders, senior leaders, ex-MPs to know their views. I will submit my report to the high command," Kharge said.
Sources in the Congress said that 55 MLAs from the dissidents camp met Kharge and Assembly Speaker Pranab Gogoi spoke to him over the phone. Five MLAs from the Gogoi camp did not meet the Congress observer, they added. On how soon a decision would be taken in this matter, Kharge said: "Only the high command can decide. Whatever decision the high command takes, all will be bound by it and all will work for strengthening the party." The dissident anti-Gogoi camp led by Education and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma with the support of 55 Ministers and MLA have openly demanded change in the CLP leadership. Rest of the 79 Congress MLAs and Ministers are stated to be Gogoi loyalists.