Gogoi's dilemma: Too many MLAs, few ministerial berths

K Anurag in Guwahati

After assuming charge as the chief minister for the third time in a row, Tarun Gogoi [ Images ] is faced with a Himalayan task of constituting his ministry that can have only 18 ministers beside him, thanks to the policy of downsizing of state ministries that is in vogue through out the country.

Gogoi who is travelling to New Delhi [ Images ] on Friday to finalise the names of his ministers in consultation with the party high-command, has to select only 18 ministers out of the 78 elected Congress members of legislative assembly and 12 from its ally Bodoland People's Front.

It is not surprising that Tarun Gogoi is mulling to request the central government to increase number of ministerial slots in the 126-member Assam Assembly from the existing 15 per cent to 25 per cent.

Unless Gogoi is allowed to accommodate more than 18 ministers, it will be impossible to keep his all his MLAs happy this time, given that there are naturally far too many aspirants for a ministerial berth. Moreover, at least one ministerial berth has to be given to the BPF.

"This time we are going to request the Centre to allow us to have a bigger ministry by increasing the number of ministerial slots up to at least 25 per cent of the total strength of the House (that comes to 31 ministers). Other North eastern states have already moved the Centre for the purpose," Gogoi said.

While Assam with a bigger House can have 19 ministers including the chief minister, other N-E states with only 60-member House each can have maximum 12 ministers per state.

Before downsizing, all the N-E states used to have ministries with over 30 members representing various tribes and communities. Now, that the size of ministries have come down, the chef ministers are forced to appoint a large number of political secretaries to accommodate MLAs from the ruling party, as well as the coalition partners and that ultimately fails the very purpose of downsizing.

In absence of sufficient ministerial slots, chief ministers of the N-E states, especially in Meghalaya and Nagaland have to create posts of many parliamentary secretaries to accommodate MLAs who could not become ministers.
Gogoi too is planning to have more number of parliamentary secretaries this time, compared with the previous government to accommodate as many ruling party MLAs as possible.