Opposition Congress MLA Sashi Kanta Das "joined the government" in Assam on Monday, the first day of the winter session of the Assembly, and will work in association with it though he will not resign from the party immediately, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said.
Sarma and BJP Assam unit president Bhabesh Kalita welcomed Das, who has been with the Congress for long years, at the chief minister's chamber inside the Assembly complex while the House was in progress. The Congress has described the development as "shocking". "Das decided to join the government to develop Raha constituency from where he was elected. It is not decided yet whether he will join our political party," Sarma told reporters while welcoming the opposition MLA.
He will continue to remain a Congress MLA and not resign from it immediately, he said. Das, who has been in Congress for several decades since his NSUI days, was elected from Raha constituency in Nagaon district in the Assembly poll this year. Asked if Das will attend the BJP legislature party meetings, Sarma said "Sometimes, he will sit in our room. But in the House, he will sit with the Congress."
Replying to a question if a by-poll will take place in Raha in view of the development, he said "There are two systems. First by-election will take place in some constituencies and second there will be no by-poll but the opposition MLAs will work with us." Das said he is impressed by the proactive steps initiated by the Sarma-led government for the development of all communities in Assam.
"I have trusted Sarma for many years. I met him for some developmental issues of Raha and he was very positive about them. I am with the government for developmental purposes only, but have not decided anything on leaving Congress," he added. Sarma had been in the Congress and was a minister in the Tarun Gogoi government before he joined the BJP in 2015.
Asked repeatedly by scribes whether he will join the BJP, the Congress MLA said: "The situation has not arisen yet. I am still a Congress MLA and will sit with them. I will support development." To a query whether he will accompany Congress legislators in case of a walkout in the House over an issue, Das said "If the issue is logical, then I will be with them (Congress)."
Reacting to the development, Leader of the Opposition Debabrata Saikia (Cong) said Das has been in Congress since the bad days of the party and his move "is a shocking development for us. "When the House was on the first day of the winter session, we did not anticipate this. Das was tortured by the ULFA for being in Congress. Such was his commitment to the party," Saikia said.
Former minister and senior Congress MLA Rakibul Hussain, with whom Das shares a close association, said that the move was planned inside the Assembly complex and took place on the first day of winter session to deviate the party's attention from the crucial issues. BJP's strength in the 126-member Assam Assembly after the February-March poll is 62, while its allies UPPL has seven and AGP nine MLAs. In the opposition camp the Congress' strength is 27, AIUDF 15, BPF three and CPI(M) has one MLA. There is an Independent MLA too.
-With PTI Inputs