From the Viewsroom

Mission accomplished

Poornima Joshi | Updated on May 11, 2021

By becoming CM, Himanta Biswa Sarma has proved a point to Congress

From being the champion of a distinct Assamese cultural identity in the volatile labyrinth of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Himanta Biswa Sarma’s recent anointment as the Chief Minister of a BJP-led coalition in the State completes a chequered political journey. Sarma’s ascension follows a carefully crafted victory in the recent Assembly elections in which he balanced the advance of a larger Hindutva project through the National Register of Citizens (NRC) with the powerful sub-national sentiment in Assam that first drew him into political life. He doused the Congress’s hope that the NRC would alienate the BJP’s voter base because it excludes a large number of Bangladeshi Hindus by a strategy that combined aggressive welfarism with the promise that the NRC would be “re-verified”. In simple terms, what the promise conveyed was that the Bangladeshi Hindus, who have been supporting the BJP, would be re-included as citizens in the NRC.

In his ascension as CM, Sarma has proved a point to Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi. Till 2014, Sarma almost symbolised the Congress’s quintessential statecraft and a kind of perfidious efficiency. After his stint with AASU, the Congress had literally adopted him with first Hiteshwar Saikia and then Tarun Gogoi nurturing him. But trouble started when Gogoi launched his son Gaurav into politics. Losing faith in his mentor, Sarma demanded his pride of place from the party’s central leadership. He apparently told Rahul Gandhi that it was he who had crafted the Congress’s triumph in 2011; an assertion which provoked an indifferent shrug from Gandhi.

An embittered Sarma soon joined the BJP, quickly stitching up alliances with the AGP and the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), while also influencing the party’s candidate selection. His part in the BJP’s victory in 2016 against his mentor Gogoi was only a stepping stone. He waited in the wings for five years under Sarbananda Sonowal as CM and by steering the party to a second term, he has earned the post he coveted for years. It is also a befitting response to the “dynastic politics” that the Gandhis have promoted in the Congress.

Published on May 11, 2021

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