PM pep pill for ailing Assam chief minister

GUWAHATI: Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who is admitted to Max Hospital in New Delhi and is likely to undergo two heart surgeries, got a confidence-booster on Tuesday from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who had a bypass operation in 2009.

Sources said the PM called up Gogoi to convey his supportive words and even spoke to the vice-chairman and cardio-vascular thoracic surgeon at the Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, Ramakant Panda, about his health. Panda had successfully led a team of doctors at AIIMS last year while performing the redo bypass surgery on Singh.

Sources said Gogoi is likely to be shifted to the Asian Heart Institute in the next two days after his two children arrive from the US. His son, Gaurav, is studying at the University of Massachusetts, while his daughter, Chandrima,who is married, lives in San Francisco. They are scheduled to reach New Delhi on Tuesday.

Doctors at Max Hospital said, "The chief minister is doing fine and he has been shifted from the ICU. He will undergo the operations late this week or early next week." The hospital authorities on Tuesday also allowed visitors to meet the chief minister. For three days, there was a ban on visitors except Gogoi's wife.

Gogoi was admitted to the hospital on Saturday after he complained of uneasiness while addressing the National Development Council meeting in New Delhi. On Monday, a coronary angiograph showed that he had two blocked blood vessels in his heart.

With Gogoi now looking to be out of office for almost six weeks, speculation has started who would be looking after the chief minister's work in his absence. A source said, "The chief minister has not made any decision in this regard." In the past, whenever Gogoi was out of office for long for one of his visits abroad, he would hand over charge to the seniormost minister in his cabinet, Bhumidhar Barman. Sources said the chief minister has passed a message to Barman to come to New Delhi but asked other ministers to stay back in the state.

However, several ministers left for the national capital on Tuesday. Barman would leave for Delhi on Wednesday.