BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma filed his nomination papers for Assam’s Jalukbari assembly seat on Monday.
Sarma was the Jalkubari MLA from 2001 till 2015. A former member of the Congress party, he joined the BJP in August 2015 after a two-year rebellion against Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s alleged bid to promote his son and MP Gaurav Gogoi as his successor.
The submission of papers to returning officer of Kamrup (Metro) district was a first of sorts for Sarma. He won the seat as a Congressman thrice since 2001, defeating three-time winner and regional heavyweight Bhrigu Kumar Phukan.
After filing his nomination, Sarma said he was confident of winning the Jalukbari seat for the fourth term, as much as the BJP-AGP-BPF (Bodoland People’s Party) was confident of displacing the Congress to form the government.
Few missed the irony in Sarma’s nomination as a first-time BJP candidate; he was primarily responsible for the downslide of his party’s ally AGP since the 2001 polls.
Wary of Sarma’s capability of upsetting the Congress applecart, chief minister Tarun Gogoi attacked him hours before he filed his nomination.
Gogoi said Sarma was polarising voters by striking a deal with perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), ahead of the two-phase assembly polls on April 4 and 11.
“Himanta has an understanding with Badruddin, which shows BJP and AIUDF are two sides of the same coin,” he said.
The Congress accuses BJP of playing the Hindutva card to strike fear among Hindus of being outnumbered by migrant Muslims. The Congress is also wary of the AIUDF since it allegedly caters to migrant Muslims who dominate at least 35 of Assam’s 126 assembly seats.
Muslims have traditionally been a major vote bank for the Congress, and the AIUDF has been on an upswing since its maiden 2006 assembly election.
Gogoi has positioned his party, the Congress, as the only inclusive secular party in a sea of communal power-seekers.
Sarma brushed Gogoi’s allegation aside as a “hallucination”, saying the voters were intelligent enough to understand that the Congress and AIUDF were on the same wavelength.
Monday also saw other senior leaders such as former BJP state president Siddhartha Bhattacharyya (Guwahati East constituency), former minister and BJP leader Chandra Mohan Patowary (Dharmapur) and senior AGP leader Phanibhushan Choudhury (Bongaigain) file their nomination.