on Friday announced that
Himanta Biswa Sarma
will contest the
. This gave the debate over the chief minister’s post a new lease of life.
Much to the surprise of everyone, BJP’s list, which was to be have names of candidates only for the first and second phases of elections, included Sarma’s name along with that of state president
Ranjeet Kumar Dass
, whose constituencies will go to the polls in the third phase.
Among the 70 named by the party, almost all (67) are Himanta’s pick. He,
and Dass are natural choices of the party.
A few weeks ago, Sarma had publicly announced that he had written to Dass expressing his unwillingness to contest assembly elections “on personal grounds”. He had, however, added a line in his letter that he would obey the party’s instructions.
Soon after Sarma’s announcement, speculations began about his shift to New Delhi and induction in the Union ministry. There was also talk that he was not ready to settle for a minister’s berth again and so would keep himself away from government responsibilities.
“Every BJP worker has to follow the party’s decision and one cannot function with his or her personal choices,” he said but remained non-committal about the chief ministerial candidate, stating that when a government was already in office, a candidate need not be announced.
Six years ago, Sarma had quit Congress to join BJP after unsuccessfully contesting then CM Tarun Gogoi’s leadership. Much before the campaign for the 2016 polls, PM Narendra Modi announced that Sonowal would be the chief minister of the first BJP government in the state and dashed Sarma’s hopes of claiming the top post.
But since then, Sarma has not only handled important departments, including finance, health, education and later public works, but expanded his influence beyond Assam’s geographical borders to plant the BJP flag in all the other NE states.