Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Tuesday allocated the finance portfolio to Ajanta Neog, making her the first woman Finance Minister of the northeastern state.Neog, who was elected to the state Assembly from the Golaghat assembly constituency in eastern Assam, would also hold the social welfare portfolio.After assuming charge in the finance department, Neog said that Chief Minister Sarma had announced after taking the oath on Monday that the aim of the new government is to make Assam one of the top five states in India in the next five years, and she would work and plan accordingly to achieve the target.She said Sarma was the Finance Minister in the previous government headed by Sarbananda Sonowal and he did a lot to boost the economy of Assam."Sarma performed outstandingly well in the finance department and increased the state's revenue share. Hence, I have a serious responsibility to take forward his works for the all-round development of the state," Neog told the media.
Neog also said that being the in-charge of the social welfare department, she will work for the welfare of women and backward communities."The social welfare department has always taken care of the hapless and poor women and the depressed class of people. I would see how the department can benefit the women and backward people by increasing their livelihood opportunities," the minister said.An influential minister in the previous Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government (2001-2016), Neog had left the party weeks before the March-April Assembly elections to join the ruling BJP.A four-time MLA, the 57-year-old leader retained her Golaghat seat, defeating her nearest opponent Bitupan Saikia of the Congress by a margin of 9,325 votes.Neog is the widow of former Congress leader Nagen Neog, who was killed along with eight others by the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom in 1996.In all, 74 women candidates (7.8 per cent) contested the recently held three-phase Assembly elections and only six of them entered the Assembly -- three from the ruling BJP, including Neog, one from Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and two from opposition Congress.