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Former insurgent, student leader, ex-Congressmen among new Assam ministers

Five from BJP and one each from AGP and BPF took oath as ministers in Assam

india Updated: Apr 26, 2018 21:50 IST
Utpal Parashar
Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi (centre) and chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal (4th from right) pose for a photograph with new ministers after the swearing-in ceremony, at Raj Bhawan in Guwahati on Thursday.
Assam governor Jagdish Mukhi (centre) and chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal (4th from right) pose for a photograph with new ministers after the swearing-in ceremony, at Raj Bhawan in Guwahati on Thursday. (PTI)

A student leader, folk singer, RSS worker and two ex-Congressmen are among the seven new ministers inducted into Assam’s BJP-led government on Thursday.

The new ministers were administered oath of office and secrecy by governor Jagdish Mukhi at a brief function at the Darbar Hall of Raj Bhawan here. With this, the total number of ministers in Assam goes up to 18.

This is the first time chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal has expanded his cabinet since taking charge in May 2016. The delay was due to internal compulsions within BJP and demands from coalition partners Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodo People’s Front (BPF) for more ministers.

Five of the new ministers were from BJP and one each were from AGP and BPF. BJP now has 12 ministers in the cabinet while AGP and BPF have three each. There’s still space for one more minister in the cabinet.

Four of the new ministers — Sidhartha Bhattacharya (BJP), Sum Ronghang (BJP), Chandan Brahma (BPF) and Phani Bhushan Choudhury (AGP) — have been given cabinet rank and Tapan Gogoi, Bhabesh Kalita and Pijush Hazarika (all from BJP) will be ministers of state with independent charge.

“My responsibilities have increased. I am ready to perform in whatever ministry the chief minister chooses to allot,” Bhattacharya told journalists.

Bhattacharya is a former state BJP chief, Brahma a former cadre of the disbanded Bodoland Liberation Tigers (BLT), Ronghang, a former Congress leader and a folk singer, and Chaudhury, a six-time MLA is one of the most senior legislators in Assam.

“There’s a lot to be done. I will continue to serve the people with utmost sincerity,” said Brahma, who had taken oath in Bodo language.

Among ministers of state, Gogoi is a former general secretary of All Assam Students Union (AASU), Kalita had associations with Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) and Hazarika, a second time MLA who had earlier won on a Congress ticket in 2011.

There were speculations that actress and BJP MLA from Batradraba, Angoorlata Deka might also get included, but that didn’t happen. At present Pramila Rani Brahma of BPF, who holds the forest portfolio, is the only woman minister in the cabinet.

A reshuffle of portfolios is expected soon to accommodate new ministers.

With Thursday’s expansion, Sonowal was able to put an end to endless speculations on whether it would happen. But he will still have to handle disgruntled BJP legislators and also those from coalition camps who are unhappy at being left out.