New Delhi, May 9
Himanta Biswa Sarma is set to become the next Assam Chief Minister after he was unanimously elected as BJP Legislature Party leader in the State. He was elevated after his name was proposed by outgoing CM Sarbananda Sonowal and others present at the meeting.
Himanta Biswa Sarma has, over time, emerged as a force more dominant in stature than former Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal. Himanta Biswa Sarma quit Tarun Gogoi-led Congress Government ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and quit the Congress party in 2015.
Next year, the BJP wrested power from the 15-year-old Tarun Gogoi Government.
Leading the BJP's mission of a "Congress-mukt Bharat" in the North East, Himanta Biswa Sarma has proved to be a political asset in expanding the BJP's base in the North East region -- a territory where the saffron party had no presence till a few years ago -- since his switch from the Congress.
From handling the Covid-19 pandemic in Assam as the Health Minister to steering the BJP out of the CAA agitation, Himanta Biswa Sarma will now be the next Chief Minister of the State.
As a disgruntled Congressman
Himanta Biswa Sarma joined the Congress in the 1990s. Contesting on a Congress ticket, Himanta Biswa Sarma became an MLA from Jalukbari Assembly Constituency in 2001. Biswa Sarma was re-elected in 2006 and then for the third consecutive term in 2011.
During the Congress rule in the State, Himanta Biswa Sarma held several portfolios, such as Minister of State for Agriculture, Planning & Development, Finance, Health, Education before his switch to the BJP.
It was after Congress's defeat in the Lok Sabha polls that an ambitious Himanta Biswa Sarma challenged Tarun Gogoi's leadership in Assam.
Narrating an incident in his book '2019: How Modi Won India', Rajdeep Sardesai writes: "An early victim of the war within the party was ambitious Assam leader Himanta Biswa Sarma. The Congress' defeat in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 opened a window of opportunity for Sarma to challenge the veteran three-term Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi."
"You have to effect a generation change in the Congress if you want to win the next election in Assam," Rajdeep Sardesai quoted Himanta Biswa Sarma telling the Congress leadership.
While Sonia Gandhi and late Ahmed Patel had assured Himanta Sarma that he would be made the next CM, after Mallikarjun Kharge, who observed Sarma's claims that he was backed by a majority of MLAs, confirmed it.
However, Rahul Gandhi red-flagged Himanta Sarma's elevation, leading to his resignation from Congress. He later joined the Bharatiya Janata Party. The next year, Assam was in BJP's hold.
HIMANTA BISWA SARMA-THE BJP STRONGMAN
Though Sarbananda Sonowal was the face of the party in the 2016 Assembly elections, the first BJP Government in Assam was credited to Himanta Biswa Sarma whose organisational skills and deep knowledge of Congress's cadre and electoral strategy proved to be a big plus.
The Chief Minister's post went to Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Sarma was made the chief convener of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a BJP-led front of anti-Congress parties.
Himanta Sarma proved his mettle again in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls as he steered the party's effort to calm public anxiety over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and in the past few months, it was Himanta Sarma who helped the BJP escape a vexed situation over the anti-CAA agitation.