A week after winning the assembly elections in Assam, the BJP has finally decided that Himanta Biswa Sarma will be the next chief minister of the state. Himanta Biswa Sarma was elected as the leader of the legislative party after a meeting of the newly elected BJP MLAs in Guwahati today. Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and BJP National General Secretary Arun Singh were appointed as observers for the meeting. Senior BJP leaders BL Santhosh and Baijayant Jay Panda were also present in the meeting.
In the meeting attended by all 60 new BJP MLAs, Himanta Biswa Sarma’s name was proposed as the next Chief Minister by outgoing CM Sarbandana Sonowal, and the proposal was supported by state BJP president Ranjit Kumar Dass. After that, all the MLAs present in the meeting supported Sarma as the leader of the legislative party. After the conclusion of the meeting, observer Narendra Singh Tomar announced that Himanta Biswa Sarma was elected as the legislative party leader unanimously, and no other name was proposed by any MLA.
Following the election of the legislative party chief, BJP leaders will meet the Governor later in the day to stake claim for the government. The party has already sought an appointment with the governor at 4 PM today.
BJP has 60 MLAs in the 126 member house, and it has support of AGP and UPPL with 9 and 6 MLAs, bringing the strength of the alliance to 75.
The oath taking ceremony will be held tomorrow at the Srimanta Sankardev Kalakshetra in Guwahati tomorrow. Due to the Covid-19 situation, the ceremony will not be held in the Raj Bhavan, and it will be held at the much larger space at Kalakshetra.
At present the fate of outgoing CM Sarbananda Sonowal is not known, and it is not clear whether he will be a minister in the next government. According to speculations, he may be made a minister the central government. One seat to Rajya Sabha from Assam is already vacant after BPF MP Biswajit Daimari resigned last year to join BJP, and Sonowal may be elected to the upper house from that seat. It may be noted that Sonowal was a union minister in the Modi government before becoming the Assam CM.
Even though the election results were announced on last Sunday, the process to start discussion over the next CM of Assam was delayed as the party said that the top leadership was busy with the post-poll situation in West Bengal where BJP workers are being attacked by TMC workers. It gained momentum on Friday after BJP’s central leadership invited Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswa Sarma to finalise the chief minister.
Accordingly, Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswa Sarma travelled to Delhi yesterday morning in a chartered flight along with few party leaders. First Himanta Biswa Sarma met party president JP Nadda at his resident, after that Sarbananda Sonowal had met him. Following that, the party president had talked to both the leaders together. After the meetings, Himanta Biswa Sarma had told reporters that answers to all the questions will be given after the legislative party meeting on Sunday in Guwahati.
Both the leaders had returned to Guwahati in the night. Earlier in the day, Sarbananda Sonowal had met the governor at the Raj Bhawan and tendered his resignation from the post of chief minister.
Even though Sarbananda Sonowal is the incumbent CM, BJP had not projected as the next C during the election campaign. And during the election, Himanta Biswa Sarma was seen as the driving force behind BJP’s campaign, who addressed the largest number of rallies, roadshows etc.
Always known as an able administrator from the times when he was a minister in the previous Congress governments, Sarma’s popularity soared in the outgoing government for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic as the Health minister, and the improvement done in roads, bridges and other infrastructure as the PWD minister. He also held the Education, Finance, and Transformation & Development departments, and was the most visible face of the government. He had brought several reforms to the education sector as a minister, and have been presenting balanced budgets focusing both on development and social welfare as a finance minister.
Apart from being praised for his administrative skills, Himanta Biswa Sarma also has made a mark as a clever politician both in Congress and later BJP. As a convenor of NEDA, he brought several regional parties in north-eastern states under the ambit of NDA. Sarma has also successfully convinced several tribal groups in Assam to ally with BJP, which was vital in defeating Congress in both the past two assembly elections, despite the consolidation of anti-BJP Muslim votes in support of Congress and AIUDF.
After serving as minister for three terms in the Tarun Gogoi government, Himanta Biswa Sarma had left Congress and joined BJP on 29th August 2015, months before the assembly elections in the state. Along with that, he had also brought several Congress leaders loyal to him to the BJP, strengthening the party considerably, and it had resulted in BJP winning the elections in alliance with AGP and BPF.
In the assembly elections, Himanta Biswa Sarma had won from Jalukbari constituency by getting 77% votes out of the total votes polled. He had defeated the Congress candidate by over 1 lakh votes, despite campaigning for himself in the constituency only on the last day of the campaigning.