From student politics to joining AGP, then switching to BJP and becoming an Union Minister, the new Assam Chief Minister Sarbanada Sonowal’s political journey to the top has been a steady climb marked by twists and turns.
A low-profile man but always sporting an infectious smile, 54-year-old Sonowal’s name as the party’s face for the state Assembly elections came as no surprise as he came with a clean image and no baggage and enjoyed the confidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A bachelor, Sonowal was included in the Union Cabinet though it left many senior party members from the state none too happy considering that he had joined the BJP only in 2011.
The state unit, however, put up a united front in the elections under Sonowal, who also took charge as the party chief before the polls, to script history as the first state in the North East where the BJP has come to power.
Credited with challenging the controversial Illegal Migrants’ Determination by Tribunal (IMDT) Act in the Supreme Court which finally scrapped it, Sonowal’s foray into politics began with his joining the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) where he served as its President from 1992 to 1999.
A major figure in the students’ politics of the region, Sonowal, a law graduate, also became the Chairman of North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) from 1996 to 2000.
From AASU he predictably went on to join the Asom Gana Parishad in 2001, founded by his erstwhile seniors in the students’ organisation, and was elected the party’s MLA from Upper Assam’s Moran constituency in 2001.
In 2004, he went on to successfully contest the Lok Sabha polls wresting the seat for the first time from the Congress by defeating former Union Minister Paban Singh Ghatowar.
He, however, lost the 2009 parliamentary polls to Ghatowar from the same constituency which was once considered a Congress bastion.