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AGP expects to gain two more slots
PRANJAL BHUYAN
 GUWAHATI, July 31 - With the long-anticipated expansion of the Sarbananda Sonowal-led State government finally expected to happen in August, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is looking to gain two more slots in the expanded ministry.

The regional party wants the expansion of the ministry to be done on the basis of proportionate representation and said that it entitles the AGP to have a total of four ministers if all the slots are filled.

“We want at least two more ministers from our party to be inducted during the expansion. We have demanded that the ministry’s representation should be based on the proportionate strength of the alliance partners in the Legislative Assembly and that entitles us to have a total of four ministers if the ministry is expanded to the maximum possible strength,” AGP general secretary Dr Kamala Kalita told The Assam Tribune today.

There are currently eight vacant slots in the Sonowal ministry, which has not been expanded even once since it took charge in May last year.

The AGP leaders will hold a meeting at 8 pm this evening where a final decision regarding the party’s views on the ministry expansion issue is likely to be taken up. The meeting is expected to continue till late night.

Dr Kalita said that his party would inform the BJP leadership about the regional party’s views on the issue soon.

Asked if there is a likelihood of a threat to the NDA alliance in case the BJP refuses to offer more than one additional slot to the AGP during the expansion, Dr Kalita said that the question is hypothetical.

“In any alliance, there are always differences and divergent views. But they can be resolved through talks and discussions. We do not believe there is any threat to the alliance,” he said.

Regarding portfolios, Dr Kalita said that allocation of departments is a prerogative of the Chief Minister and the AGP does not want to interfere in that matter.

He also exuded confidence that the AGP would get more representation in government boards and other bodies after the ministry expansion exercise is over.

Meanwhile, the AGP sources told this newspaper that senior party leader Phani Bhushan Choudhury is likely to be the party’s first choice for ministerial position when the expansion takes place.

The AGP currently has two slots in the ministry. AGP president Atul Bora and party’s working president Keshab Mahanta are ministers in the Sonowal ministry.

“There are a couple of names floating around in case we manage to secure a second berth during the expansion,” said a leader of the regional outfit.

The third partner in the ruling alliance, the BPF, also has two ministers, while the rest of the ministers in the 11-member team are from the BJP. The ministry can be expanded to a maximum of 19 members.

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