How Himanta Sarma convinced BJP leaders he should be next CM of Assam

Sarma rejected every offer – including the post of deputy CM and the prospect of more power within the party – that the leadership made 

Himanta Biswa Sarma finally gets his wish | PTI Photo

Himanta Biswa Sarma will succeed Sarbananda Sonowal as the chief minister of Assam after the latter formally proposed Sarma’s name for the post at the BJP legislature party meeting in Guwahati on Sunday.

A week after the BJP rode back to power in the state for a second consecutive term, the party’s national leadership summoned both Sonowal and Sarma to New Delhi on Saturday to work out a compromise formula. The BJP’s leaders were keen to maintain the political status quo in the state, with Sonowal as the CM and Sarma as his deputy.

However, Sarma rejected every offer – including the post of deputy CM and the prospect of more power within the party.

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According to sources, Sarma went prepared with a list of 40 legislators who supported him for the post of CM. Fearing a rebellion after the BJP’s disastrous performance in West Bengal, the party’s national leadership had to acquiesce  to his demand.

Earlier on Sunday, Sonowal placed his resignation from the post of CM before Assam Governor Jagdish Mukhi. He later proposed Sarma’s name at the meeting. The legislature party then unanimously elected Sarna as CM.

Sarma had called on Sonowal in the morning at his official residence along with a few of his confidants. Shortly after that Sonowal went off to submit his resignation.

Sarma and his new cabinet will be sworn in on Monday, and BJP national president JP Nadda is expected to be present at the ceremony.

Only a limited number of ministers are expected to be sworn in. A cabinet expansion will take place at a later date.

Meanwhile, hectic lobbying has already started for ministerial berths. According to sources, the newly elected cabinet will have representations from the Sonowal camp as well.

Both the Asom Gana Parishad and United People’s Party Liberal leadership have offered their unconditional support to the newly elected leader of the legislature party.

Sonowal’s Exit

The former CM, who  became the first non-Congress leader in Assam to lead his party to a second consecutive term, did not show any attempt to rebel at this turn of events. According to a top BJP leader, a compromise formula acceptable to both Sonowal and Sarma has been worked out.

“Sonowal will be elected to the Rajya Sabha from the seat that has been vacated with the resignation of former Bodoland People’s Front Rajya Sabha member and now BJP MLA, and will be made a minister at the Centre – most likely a Cabinet minister,” said the source.

“The current Assam BJP president Ranjit Kumar Das will be part of the Assam Cabinet and thus the post of state party president will get vacated. Dibrugarh Lok Sabha MP and Union minister Rameshwar Teli will be appointed to that post. There is also a fear that the BJP’s influence and popularity in the tea belt has taken a hit, and with Teli’s appointment, it is expected that things will improve,” the source said.

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