The BJP has summoned Sarbananda Sonowal and another party claimant for the Assam chief minister’s job, Himanta Biswa Sarma, to Delhi following the ruling alliance’s victory in the recent assembly election.
Sources said the BJP’s central leaders want to discuss the issue of chief ministerial post face-to-face with the two leaders before taking a final call. Such a discussion, the sources said, would prevent factionalism in the Assam unit.
The intervention comes almost a week after the poll results on May 2, but the question as to who will be the CM persists as the top leaders were busy responding to post-poll violence in neighbouring West Bengal.
Sonowal, who was elected from the Majuli constituency, enjoys a clean image while Sarma, an MLA from Jalukbari constituency in lower Assam, is a trouble-shooter for the party. Sarma powered the BJP rule in Assam, establishing the party’s toehold in the Northeast, in the 2016 elections. An influential leader in the region, Sarma left the Congress in 2015 to join the BJP.
Sarma’s qualities were in evidence earlier this year when he ensured the party came to power in Arunachal Pradesh overnight as the Congress watched all its members, except the chief minister, Nabam Tuki, switch sides.
Sarma also worked to keep Congress out of power in Manipur. And then in Tripura, the BJP dislodged the well-entrenched Left Front government of Manik Sarkar. Sarma is the architect of the North East Democratic Alliance.
Sonowal had reportedly been promised the CM’s chair in case the party won. This was meant to soften him up after he had announced he would not contest the elections. Sonowal is seen as someone who has a deeper connection with Assamese identity, a key plank of the party in the elections. Sonowal was at the helm of the All Assam Students’ Union for long, and helmed agitations against illegal migrants.
In the results announced for the 126-member Assam assembly last Sunday, the BJP won 60 seats and its alliance partners AGP and UPPL won nine and six seats, respectively.