Hectic lobbying for more ministers from northeast

May 23rd, 2009 - 4:54 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Guwahati, May 23 (IANS) Congress leaders including Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi and his Manipur counterpart Okram Ibobi Singh are camping in New Delhi to lobby for more ministerial seats for the northeast in the Manmohan Singh government.
In the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government there were two cabinet ministers and one minister of state from the eight northeastern states in the 87-member union council of ministers.

In the first UPA government, Congress heavyweight from Silchar in Assam, Santosh Mohan Dev was heavy industries and public enterprises minister. He lost the elections this time to Bharatiya Janata Party’s Kabindra Purakayastha.

Senior Congress leader from Meghalaya P.R. Kyndiah was given the ministry of tribal affairs last time but he did not contest the elections in 2009.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in the first round of oath taking Friday, has elevated former union minister of state for chemicals, fertilizers and mines, Bijoy Krishna Handique to cabinet minister rank.

“As the Congress this time has done well as compared to previous elections, more ministerial berths should be allotted for the region,” said Tapas Dey, a senior Congress leader.

Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the eight northeastern states, the Congress has won 13 seats, two more than in the 2004 polls. The Bodo People’s Front (BPF), a pre-poll ally, won one seat.

Manipur Chief Minister Singh, before leaving for New Delhi, told reporters in Imphal: “We do expect a minister from our state as both the seats in Manipur have been comprehensively won by the Congress.”

Meghalaya Chief Minister D.D. Lapang said: “For all-round development of the region and adequate representation in the union council of ministry at least four union ministers should be from the region.”

Barring Sikkim, Nagaland and Tripura, the Congress is ruling in Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF), a regional party with a largely Muslim support base, and Nagaland’s ruling People’s Front (NPF) have won one seat each. Both the parties have declared their support to the UPA government.

“The influential tea lobby in Assam and Tripura are pushing for the inclusion of former union health minister Paban Singh Ghatowar, a Congress MP from Dibrugarh in Assam. A delegation comprising Assam ministers and legislators led by state Forest Minister Rockybul Hussain met Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee and Congress president’s political adviser Ahmed Patel in New Delhi,” said a Congress leader.

“The BPF, an ally of Congress in Assam, has also demanded a berth for its parliamentarian Sansuma Khunggur Bwismuthiary,” the Congress leader told IANS.

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