Sarma outplays Sonowal, to be new Assam CM


Vibha Sharma

Today News Online Service

New Delhi, May 9

Himanta Biswa Sarma (52) was today unanimously elected as the leader of the BJP legislature party in the presence of central observers, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and general secretary Arun Singh.

Tomar made the official announcement following the meeting in Guwahati. Tomar said no other name was proposed and that there was complete consensus on Sarma, who will now take the oath as the next Chief Minister of Assam tomorrow, 10 days after the party registered its one and only solo victory in the just-concluded elections to four states and a union territory.


Had PM backing


Sources say Himanta Biswa Sarma was backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for all his troubleshooting, hard work and political acumen that helped the BJP expand in Assam and other parts of the Northeast.

Sarma, who left the Congress after a run-in with senior leader Rahul Gandhi, is one of the rare leaders from outside to be given the top post usually reserved for those with connection with the RSS, the BJP’s ideological fountainhead. Sources say Sarma was backed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah for all his troubleshooting, hard work and political acumen that helped the BJP expand in Assam and other parts of the Northeast.

Ending the NDA partnership with the Bodoland People’s Front and allying with the United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL), another Bodo outfit, helped the alliance make good gains in these elections.

His selection is the recognition of his contribution to the party, say sources. The decision was finalised yesterday when incumbent Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and him were called over to Delhi by the central leadership. Meanwhile, sources add that the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC winning in the neighbouring West Bengal is one of the reasons for “a more politically deft” Sarma getting the top post in Assam. Apparently, the leadership felt Sarma will be able to “tackle Mamata better”. He has been highlighting the “plight of people forced to leave the state following purported post-poll violence and come to Assam” ever since TMC’s sweep.

While Sarma has got what he has been aspiring for, all eyes are now on Sonowal, a popular state leader in his own right. Sources say the BJP is considering a couple of ideas, including accommodating him in a “well-deserved” position at the Centre via the Rajya Sabha, even though Sonowal says he is comfortable in state politics. Called ‘Jatiya Nayak’, Sonowal has emerged as a popular face with a clean image. He too is credited with helping the BJP retain Assam and containing anger against the Centre after the CAA.

Observers, however, point that the party’s hesitancy in naming its chief minister’s face in the run-up to the 2021 Assembly elections were indicative of a change. It was certainly contrary to the party’s stated stance that the BJP always contests under the incumbent CM in the state it is in power.

During the election campaign, Sonowal and Sarma both dismissed speculations of any “issues” between them and worked as a “team”. But Sarma, who was a Cabinet minister with important portfolios in the Sonowal government, had been dropping hints regarding the arrangement.



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