Since Himanta Biswa Sarma crossed over to the BJP in 2015, he has been working to strengthen the saffron party and has left no stone unturned to keep the Congress out of power.
“What will they do in the opposition benches for five years?” asked Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma in June this year, appealing to all Opposition MLAs to join the ruling BJP and work for the public. Sarma, a former Congressman himself, rarely beats around the bush- be it on the issue of Muslim votes, COVID cases or defection from opposition parties.
Sarma’s remarks have often put him in cross hairs with the opposition, and his latest was seen by the Congress’s as “encouraging defections”. And they may not be completely off the mark. Since Himanta Biswa Sarma crossed over to the BJP in 2015, he has been working to strengthen the saffron party and has left no stone unturned to keep the Congress out of power. Not only this, several Congress MLAs have followed in his footsteps to join the ruling alliance.
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Yesterday, the Congress suffered yet another jolt as two-time party MLA Sushanta Borgohain and former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s OSD Barnali Saikia Bora joined the ruling BJP. Borgohain is believed to have met Sarma before switching sides. Borgohain won from Thowra constituency on the Congress ticket. Meanwhile, the Congress has accepted Borgohain’s resignation and wrote to Assam Assembly Speaker Biswajit Daimary to disqualify him as an MLA. Borgohain had tendered his resignation from the House on Saturday.
Along with him, Congress secretaries Amit Agarwal and Jubli Poddar Baishya and the party’s media panellist Mriganka Jyoti Barua also joined the saffron party.
This is the second big jolt to the Congress in Assam in less than three months since the state assembly election where the Congress failed to overthrow the BJP despite allying with the Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF).
Earlier in June, four-time Congress MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi joined the BJP after resigning as a legislator. He was the lone MLA from the Tea Tribe community in the Congress.
I am glad to have met Hon MLA of Thowra Sri Sushanta Borgohain, who resigned from @INCIndia on July 31, & will join @BJP4India today. Young, and energetic, his joining our fold will strengthen and benefit the party immensely.
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) August 1, 2021
Last month, Jury Sharma Bordoloi, the Guwahati district president of the Congress, had also left the party and had taken membership of the BJP. Former Congress state minister Rajib Lochan Pegu had resigned as the president of the Majuli district unit of the Congress on July 6 and several reports had claimed that he may join the BJP. However, his next move is not clear yet.
Notably, the current finance minister in Sarma’s cabinet, Ajanta Neog was also a four-time Congress legislator but switched over to the BJP before the recent assembly election and won for the fifth time. She was Minister for the Public Works Department (Roads & Building, NH), Urban Development & Housing in the Congress government between 2006 and 2016.
With Borgohain’s resignation, the Congress’ strength in the 126-member Assam Assembly has come down to 27, while the BJP has 60 MLAs. The AIUDF has 16 legislators, the BPF three and the CPI(M) one. NDA allies AGP has 9 and the UPPL has five seats. There is an Independent legislator.
Former Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, who has become a minister at the Centre, is yet to submit his resignation in the assembly.