What Congress needs to learn from Himanta Biswa Sarma, the humble political giant

Himanta Biswa Sarma has found a place on my list of favourite politicians. The reason for saying so is not solely because of the kind of giant killer he has been for Congress party in the Northeastern region of India. He is a nice guy who stood up for himself in the face of dynastic arrogance and now, he is doing a great service to the Northeast region and BJP by helping to bring BJP/ NDA governments in a matter of 2 years since he became the convenor of NEDA (North-East Democratic Alliance). I may not be alone in my admiration for this man. The fact this tweet has received 105K retweets may be an indicator of his current popularity.

Master-Servant relationship is not a going to work for long in Indian democracy

In an interview to NDTV, Mr Sarma told Barkha Dutt in unequivocal terms about what he felt when he interacted with Rahul Gandhi. The remarks made by him reveal another face of the Dynastic Prince. He says that Rahul Gandhi can be approached only with a master-servant dynamics and that is disgusting (see 6:30 onward).

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He also said that his interaction with Amit Shah was far better as he felt that the BJP president was keenly noting what was being told to him. Clearly, a master-servant relationship is not suitable for running a political party in a competitive democracy.

Dynasty has to be discarded if Congress has to survive

In yet another interview to NDTV, he said that Rahul Gandhi is a feudalist and a dynast. While conceding that dynasty may exist in one form or the other in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha he asked whether a common party worker in Congress can become a president. He contrasted the situation in BJP where Amit Shah and Narendra Modi had risen to the top.

Sarma made a prediction that dynasty would not end even after 1000 years in Congress party. Clearly, Congress needs to address the ‘dynasty’ issue if it has to retain worthy politicians like Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Contact with ground realities is a must

In an interview to Republic TV, he predicted that the BJP would get around 40 seats in Tripura well before the TV channels could get a hold of the trends. In addition to this, he made an interesting remark (see 4:15 onwards) that Tripura had moved from the left to right in a single shot without an intermediary phase of centre in terms of the political shift in elections. This demonstrates, that he, unlike Congress leadership has close contact with grassroots and political acumen.

Political parties are not rulers, they are service providers in a democracy

In addition to the sense of self-respect he has, Mr Sarma is not arrogant even when he is provoked. When Rajdeep Sardesai said that NDA was winning because of money power he plainly told that Northeast people are not cheap and can’t be brought over with money. He went on to compare the political shift in the Northeast to the way in which a consumer moves to a different airline service provider if he/she is not satisfied with an existing one (see 3:50 onwards ).

This drives home an important point. Political parties are similar to a service provider in a democracy. If service is not good, consumers and employees could desert any organisation.

In the coming years, I see Himanta Biswa Sarma rising in the pecking order of the BJP setup. He has engineered the NDA shift in the north east region and his success is likely to be rewarded by the party in future. Congress’ loss was BJP’s gain. This man and the kind of punishment he has given to arrogance of Rahul Gandhi should serve as a lesson for Congress.

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