Political stories revolve around the rumours and the veracious gossip that is making round in Dispur is about a major political change, before the second week of September. The party in the throne—Bharatiya Janata Party—is going to change the top leadership in the state.
The political leadership in India gallop on the face value but for BJP, the case is off-centre. Nagpur-headquartered RSS reserves the final saying and a non-RSS member is looked down for leadership status. While the central and state leadership engages in the recommendation, the file is always closed in Nagpur.
According to a top source, “Assam is going to change the top leadership in the state. The file has already set the seal on. The people of Assam will likely accept the decision. It is taken keeping in mind the political aspiration of Assamese people.”
The source confirmed that the decision would be made public before the second week of next month. The source claimed, “There will be minute yet important changes. The decision will come after Independence Day and anywhere before the second week of September.”
“It is not any up-gradation or down-gradation but is for the good of the party and the people,” the source added.
RSS leader Gopal Krishna —the liaison between BJP and Nagpur, BJP national president JP Nadda and few top leaderships had met Narendra Modi in June. The meeting was speculated to be on the restructuring of the party with few getting a position in New Delhi and, few will be made to sit down and lead at the state. A party source added that the restructuring would not only focus on Modi’s cabinet expansion but will have significant changes in BJP-led states.
Leadership vouches for Himanta as the new CM
The file—rumoured to be submitted with Modi—mentions Assam on several occasion. And the names that have flashed on the paper is Assam’s Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
While it was speculated that Himanta will be sent to New Delhi, ahead of “likely” expansion of Modi cabinet, the case is the opposite.
A well-placed source in the state BJP vouched for Himanta’s name doing rounds as the Chief Minister of Assam before the state goes for the poll due in mid-2021. “It is confirmed that Himanta Biswa Sarma will be the new chief minister of Assam. While Sarbada [Sarbananda Sonowal] will step down for the time being,” the source told.
Asking on the future of Sonowal, the source said, “He [Sonowal] will make his way to New Delhi as a union minister very soon. It is going to be a major change before the party sits down in deciding strategies for 2021.”
While, the name of Tezpur MP Pallab Lochan Das, a newly-elect general secretary for BJP in Assam is also surfacing in the restructuring. It is believed that he will make ways for Sonowal. As the 2021 Assam election is looming over the head, Das will be a man-to-go for deciding on floating candidature for the party.
As the state BJP is concerned, a general secretary cannot contest for the election. With this, Das is likely to be seen as an asset and an emerging decision-maker in the party. After quitting the congress and legislature from Behali, he made it to the shoes of the BJP in 2015.
Spotlight and public relations
Himanta, the most visible face before the public in any government policy took the spotlight back on him after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the state. While he oversees the health portfolio in the state, it was all on his head to take lead in the crisis. With other states as their Chief Minister at the forefront in battling the crisis, Himanta became the man-in-charge, pushing the number one—Sonowal—back to handling the bureaucratic fires.
“Many people disliked Himanta for his stand during the CAA but, the change has come due to his sheer commitment in battling the coronavirus crisis. The central leadership was already in talks with RSS to put him at the highest level, his dedication as health minister added a lot to it,” said the source mentioned above.
Himanta joined the active politics in the early 2000s and was a three-time MLA from the Congress. He held various portfolios while the health department is with him as early as from 2006. Before the 2016 polls, he parts ways with the Congress and joined BJP after “differences” emerged with Gandhi leadership and former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.
While “Xokolute Ananda, Sarbananda” was buzzing across the state, it was Himanta’s face that led to BJP’s landing in Dispur. Already popular figure, Himanta with a heavy face value made it easier for BJP to form their first government in the state.
However, the glitch with Himanta was his non-RSS background. Cutting down this difference, he made it to be the face of BJP in the entire Northeast, beyond the politics of Assam. He has changed the way BJP decides on their top leadership position, by letting a non-RSS politician also take up high profiles.
While there were/are many allegations levelled upon Himanta in battling the Covid-19 crisis, the majority of people have appreciated and supported him for his tireless work.
The source believes it is the right time to place him at the CM’s position as the sentiment of people plays a major role. This would make the weigh heavier for Himanta in 2021 polls as capturing the people’s sentiment with his up-gradation at the right time will pave ways for another victory in 2021, the source stated.
“Assam will get the good news soon. People will support us,” said the source on the condition of anonymity.
The future of the two?
While Himanta makes it to the centre stage, Sarbananda Sonowal will have to wait for the time being. The source told that Sonowal will be upgraded only if Das clear-off his MP seat for him.
A two-time MLA, Das quit Congress and joined BJP along with Himanta and is known to be a close-aide of him. While he was a junior minister in the current government at the Dispur, he had ups-and-downs in his political changes.
The post of general secretary is known as a liaison between Nagpur and state BJP and with this, Das, a tea-tribe politician will play an important role for the polls. Officially speaking, this is a powerful position within the functionality of the BJP in the state-level.
For Sonowal, New Delhi was a whole experience as he served as a minister with independent charge in Modi 1.0 ministry. This time the source claims that he will return and undergo an up-gradation with likely inclusion as a cabinet minister.
The face value, ideas in subject-matters and the right contacts will make it to Dispur while heavy bureaucratic-dependency is suitable for a peaceful job in New Delhi.
Himanta has finally inched towards the CM Block with a difference of being the non-RSS member. Will BJP gain more votes in 2021 as Himanta Biswa Sarma as the CM face?