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BJP Does Balancing Act In Assam, Rewards Poster Boy Himanta Sarma

BJP has stepped one step backward and opted for a former Congressman turned the party’s poster boy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, for the Chief Minister’s post in Assam, over giving second term to Sarbananda Sonowal. BJP’s ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was clearly against Sarma’s anointment but BJP had no choice in a serious bid to avoid a rebellion from Sarma who enjoys clout among the newly elected legislators. Due to strong claims made by Sarma on CM’s post, BJP did not project Sonowal or him or any other leader as party’s CM candidate in the run up to the assembly elections. Instead, BJP took cautious decision to reach out to the Assam people on the development and welfare plank while deftly handling the CAA and NCR issues and hitting out at the Congress promoted MahaJyot alliance, led by leaders like AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal, seen by many as the allies of the illegal immigrants. Sarma is widely lauded for his effective management of Covid-19 as the State’s Health Minister; as well as for his intuitive leadership that has helped the BJP win assembly elections in 2016 and 2021. According to some observers, he will have to skilfully handle the CAA and NCR matters even though the Congress led front failed to mobilize the voters on this tricky issue. On the other hand, Sonowal, who gracefully signed off as Assam Chief Minister, having completed the full five-year term since 2016, has declined a Union cabinet post. He had earlier served as the Union Minister of Sports & Youth Affairs (2014-16) – and is now seeking to stay back in Assam.