GUWAHATI, Nov 5 - The State unit of the Congress party is likely to witness a change of leadership either during the second half of this month or in December.
Highly placed sources in the principal Opposition party said there is also a likelihood of change of guard being made in the State Congress Legislature Party (CLP).
“The party has not performed very well electorally in recent times. Now the priority is to restructure the organisation and get ready to face elections to the urban local bodies (ULBs) which will take place early next year and also the 2021 legislative Assembly polls. A change of leadership in the State unit is due and it could happen either in the second half of November or in December,” a source in the All India Congress Committee (AICC) told The Assam Tribune.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee (APCC) vice president and Lok Sabha MP Pradyut Bordoloi, Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly and Leader of the CLP Debabrata Saikia, and senior leader Bhupen Kumar Borah are the major contenders to replace incumbent State party chief Ripun Bora.
It is also noteworthy that former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi had recently stated that he would be willing to shoulder the responsibility of being the State party president if the Congress high command desires.
Gogoi yesterday met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi.
“There is also a possibility that Saikia may be removed as CLP leader. Many legislators have sought a change in the CLP hierarchy. Around 18 MLAs have submitted a letter to the high command seeking his removal. If Saikia is removed from the post of CLP leader, then senior MLA and former Minister Ajanta Neog may be the choice of the high command to fill that position. Neog has experience. She is vocal and studious, and having a woman as leader of the Legislature Party could also prove to be politically advantageous. After all, female voters comprise half of the electorate,” said the source.
Regarding the change in APCC, sources added that while Gogoi may have expressed willingness to be the State unit president, chances are higher of the party high command opting for Bordoloi or Saikia or Borah.
“The fact is that Gogoi had earlier shown no inclination to join the fray. Unfortunately, the State Congress is divided into factions. All major leaders have their own factions and supporters. Gogoi believes that if he is made the APCC president, then he will be able to keep the factions in control and take everybody along. However, Gogoi has also admitted that due to his age factor, he will need the assistance of one or two working presidents if he is made the State unit boss. Under such circumstances it is more likely that the high command will go for somebody else and not the former Chief Minister,” said the leader.
If the Congress high command decides against appointing Gogoi as Bora’s replacement, then the former Chief Minister is expected to back Bordoloi for the post, sources added.
Factors like caste and ethnicity will also come into consideration.
“If Gogoi, by any chance, replaces Ripun Bora as APCC president, then Saikia has to quit as CLP leader. Both Gogoi and Saikia are from the Ahom community and the party cannot allow two individuals from the same community to hold the two most important posts in the State. There is also a probability that none of the frontrunners may finally make it to the finishing line and the high command could instead opt for a senior leader from the tea community,” a party source said.
Congress, which for decades got backing of the tea community in the State, had in recent years seen its support base shrink among members of the community. In the 2014 and 2019 Lok Sabha elections, as well as in the 2016 Assembly polls, the ruling BJP made major inroads into the tea belt.
The Congress party is now looking to regain its old base among the tea community electorate. In the recent by-polls to four Assembly constituencies of Assam, the party gave tickets to candidates belonging to the tea community in three of the seats.