GUWAHATI, Aug 3 - Even as the AGP and the Bodoland People�s Front (BPF) are hoping to get at least two more berths each during expansion of the Sarbananda Sonowal ministry, � which is expected to happen soon � it is unlikely that either party will be offered more than one slot each.
Senior State BJP leaders told The Assam Tribune that while all the eight remaining vacancies in the ministry are likely to be filled up during the expansion, the saffron party will keep six of the new berths for itself, while AGP and BPF are expected to be offered only one additional berth each.
�It is all settled. There will be six new ministers from BJP and one each from the AGP and BPF,� said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.
In the present 11-member ministry, there are seven ministers from the BJP, including the Chief Minister, while both the AGP and BPF are represented by two ministers each. Both regional parties have been demanding that the composition of the ministry should be on proportional representation based on the strength of each party in the Legislative Assembly.
The ministry can have a maximum strength of 19.
On being contacted, State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass refused to divulge details about the expected expansion of the ministry or its likely composition. �The expansion will happen soon,� he told this newspaper. However, other senior BJP leaders said the expansion would most likely take place in the second half of this month.
�It will happen after the Independence Day celebrations are over but before the end of August. The Chief Minister will hold consultations with the BJP leadership in New Delhi as well as with our State leaders and our NDA allies at Dispur,� said a BJP source. Saffron party leaders said that the exercise would be a full-fledged reshuffle and not merely an expansion of the Sonowal ministry.
�Many of the ministers are now overworked and holding multiple portfolios. Some will be divested of a few portfolios which will be handed over to the newcomers. In some other cases, portfolios will be reshuffled,� said a leader.
He added that proper attention is being given to social and demographic considerations. As such, at least one more woman MLA will be inducted into the ministry and representation from the Barak Valley will be increased.
�Besides, the dominant Ahom community is currently not represented in the ministry and that will have to be taken care of. The question of representation from the minority communities will also be looked into,� he said.
Meanwhile, asked about the MLAs who may make it to the list, State BJP spokesperson Dr Rajdeep Roy said, �That is the prerogative of the Chief Minister. But the social angle and other factors will be taken into account.� He said there is no difference among the NDA allies in Assam.
�The alliance is strong and will remain intact till 2021. If there are any issues, we will sort them out through consultations. All NDA constituents, whether the BJP or the AGP or the BPF, are united behind the Sonowal government�s efforts in its fight against corruption, in building a climate where investors can flock to the State and in ensuring that the social welfare measures reach the masses,� Dr Roy said.