Spotlight is on future roles for Sarbananda Sonowal, Himanta Biswa Sarma
- The campaign season has been marked by speculation of Sonowal possibly getting a role in the Union government and Sarma taking his place as CM, particularly since the BJP did not name a CM candidate outright.
Having retained power in Assam, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will now need to take a decision on whether to keep chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal at the helm or elevate Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam’s health and finance minister, who has steadily gained strength within the party since defecting from the Congress in the run-up to the 2014 elections.
The campaign season has been marked by speculation of Sonowal possibly getting a role in the Union government and Sarma taking his place as CM, particularly since the BJP did not name a CM candidate outright.
“Any decision that will be taken will be after a call is taken at the parliamentary board. Central observers will be sent and there will be legislative party meeting,” said Jay Panda, BJP vice-president and in-charge of Assam.
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Senior party leaders in Assam as well as in the central BJP have said that any change will be only after consultation at the highest decision-making body.
In the run-up to the elections, while Sonowal was not named as CM candidate, BJP leaders said the party will contest under his leadership. They pointed to the “dominating presence” of the CM in the posters as indication of no changes in the offing.
Sonowal and Sarma themselves have dismissed the talk of their future role as media speculation and stressed that they work as a team. In an interview to HT in March, the CM had said, “I am a committed party person and want the party to come to power. We work as a team and the stories of a tussle are made up by the media.”
Sarma said it did not matter what he thought, and the decision would be taken by the PM and home minister Amit Shah.
Sonowal, popularly known as Jatiya Nayak, has emerged as a popular CM with a clean image. He is also credited with dousing the anger that erupted in the state, particularly in Upper Assam, after the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) was passed.
His hold over the indigenous tribes is also counted in his favour.
But a section within the party has pushed for Sarma, who defected from the Congress ahead of the 2014 general elections, to be made the CM.