Assam abuzz over choice of next CM

While the BJP did not project a chief ministerial candidate, Health Minister Sarma is tipped for the post

Election won, the buzz in the BJP camp is now around who will be the next Chief Minister of Assam.

The BJP did not project anyone as its chief ministerial candidate this time unlike in 2016 when the party’s campaign revolved around the “happiness” that Sarbananda Sonowal would ensure.

From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to BJP’s national president Jagat Prasad Nadda, everyone had during election rallies made a conscious effort to give equal importance to Mr. Sonowal and Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, seen as the chief architect of the two consecutive electoral victories for the party and its allies.

A day after the saffron camp secured a majority with 75 seats in the 126-member House, leaders of BJP and its allies Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) have been indirectly rooting for Dr. Sarma.

“The people of Assam have given us a chance to serve them once again. We need a dynamic and efficient leader as the Chief Minister to live up to the expectations of the people,” UPPL president Pramod Boro said on Monday.

AGP president Atul Bora said choosing the Chief Minister should be best left to the BJP’s central leadership.

Tuliram Ronghang, the Chief Executive Member of the Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council, minced no words. “The MLAs from the hill districts would like to see Dr. Sarma as the next Chief Minister. But it is up to the BJP to decide,” he told journalists.

Dr. Sarma was instrumental in dropping four of the five BJP legislators from the two hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao. The party swept the hill constituencies.

Mr. Sonowal and Dr. Sarma chose not to comment on who would be in the hot seat. “The ball is in the court of our central leadership,” the latter said.

Speculations were fuelled by Dr Sarma’s announcement a year ago that he was not interested in contesting the 2021 Assembly election. But he changed his mind after some “coaxing” by the BJP leadership in New Delhi.

The allies, meanwhile, have changed their plan to fly to New Delhi before staking claim to form the new government. A State BJP spokesperson said the decision was taken in view of the COVID-19 situation and the party’s central observers will be arriving in Guwahati instead.

“The swearing-in will be a low-key affair,” he said, adding that much of Monday was spent in felicitating the newly-elected candidates. The AGP too felicitated its nine victors.

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