On Maha MLAs putting up at Assam hotel, CM Sarma cites flood funds, Oppn fumes
Maharashtra political crisis: Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma said there was no controversy regarding their visit, adding he would be happy if Assam became an "international political epicentre".
Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Wednesday said he was ready to welcome everyone to the state as it needed funds to deal with the raging flood. He made the statement hours after a group of lawmakers from Maharashtra landed in the state from Gujarat and made their way to a luxury hotel on the outskirts of Guwahati.
The MLAs were led by dissident Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, whose latest moves challenging the authority of party supremo and Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray has created a major political crisis in the western state.
In Assam, the MLAs' current destination since leaving Maharashtra a day ago, followed by a halt in Surat, the Opposition hit out at the BJP saying the ruling camp was busy playing politics at a time the state was reeling under a devastating deluge.
However, Sarma said there was no controversy regarding their visit. “We welcome all tourists to visit Assam now as we need funds to deal with floods.”
He also said, without elaborating, that he would be happy if Assam became an "international political epicentre".
"Guwahati has many luxury hotels and if the rooms are full we should be happy as it will bring in revenue. We will earn through GST and we need it during these difficult times of devastating floods in the state. Why should we turn away Goddess Lakshmi when most of our hotels are empty or have low occupancy during this period," Sarma was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
At present, more than 55 lakh people in 32 districts of the northeastern state were affected by flood that had also claimed 89 lives.
When asked if he would meet the dissident MLAs from Maharashtra, Sarma said that there is no need for him to do that. "If I can manage, maybe I will meet them for five minutes. In the meantime, some of my legislator colleagues are in touch with them," he said.
The chief minister said that he is busy dealing with the flood situation and will visit Nagaon and Silchar soon. "I will be happy if the state becomes an international political epicentre. I urge all to visit the state so that we can earn revenue to deal with the situation," he said.
Shinde, who initially refused to talk to media persons waiting outside the airport, later claimed that he has the support of 46 MLAs. The MLAs were taken to Surat from Mumbai on Tuesday and the decision to shift them to Guwahati was taken on security grounds, according to a PTI report.
This is perhaps the first time that MLAs from a west-Indian state is being taken to a northeastern state after their rebellion against the party leadership.
Asked why they had come to Guwahati, Shinde said, "It is a nice place".
Meanwhile, Opposition leaders slammed the Sarma government over the issue. Congress MP Gourav Gogoi said the "diversion of government resources" towards guarding Maharashtra MLAs is heartless and cold-blooded amid the devastating floods. "Until the BJP is ousted, Indian people will continue to be a casualty," he wrote on Twitter.
Congress state unit president Bhupen Bora said, "The disgusting politics of the chief minister has brought shame to the people of the state."
He said the CM was extending "royal hospitality" to the MLAs who flew in from Maharashtra at a time when lakhs in the state were struggling with a massive national calamity.
Sharing photos of flooded roads and houses, TMC MP Sushmita Dev tweeted, "I hear MLAs of Maharashtra coming to Assam as part of the poaching exercise. Parts of Assam are so flooded that there is no drinking water or electricity. Pls don’t distract @himantabiswa (Himanta Biswa Sarma) he needs to focus on this grave situation."
Assam Jaitya Parishad president Lurinjyoti Gogoi said the recent political developments in Maharashtra is a blatant attempt by the BJP to destroy Marathi regionalism. "It has always been the strategy of the BJP to subjugate regional forces and narratives. It is unacceptable and unforgivable," he said.
"At the same time, when Assam is reeling under destructive floods, the BJP government is busy splitting the Shiv Sena. Such is the commitment of BJP to Assam, Maharashtra should take note and give a befitting reply," he added.
(With agency inputs)