Himanta Biswa Sarma: From a rebel Congress leader to Assam Chief Minister

By: |
May 17, 2021 10:34 AM

Himanata Biswa Sarma's leaning towards politics became evident during his college days in the early 1980s.

Himanta Biswa Sarma Assam BJP CongressHimanta Biswa Sarma has never minced his words when it comes to criticising the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi.

After remaining CM-in-waiting for about seven years, Himanta Biswa Sarma finally reached Assam’s top post on May 10 after the BJP decided to go ahead with his appointment, replacing Sarbananda Sonowal. While Sonowal and Sarma share a close bond and it was Sonowal who moved Himanta’s name for the CM’s post during BJP’s legislative party meeting, both the leaders have been an equally popular choice for the post. Reportedly, Sarma’s fallout with the Congress was mainly due to his ambition as well as on account of senior party leaders sidelining him, preferring then CM Tarun Gogoi. Sarma is a four-time MLA and has been a minister in all governments since 2001. He was rewarded by his mentors including former Congress chief ministers Hiteswar Saikia and Tarun Gogoi for his sharp political acumen. Under their leadership, Sarma got ample opportunities to rise and shine.

As a Convenor of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), Sarma had managed to bring all eight North-Eastern states within the NDA’s fold and played a vital role in helping the BJP form a second consecutive government in Assam. Notably, the BJP is the only non-Congress party in the state to retain power after the first term. This speaks a volume about Sarma’s ability to get work done against all odds. Notably, Sarma was the chief architect of the Congress party’s massive victory in the 2011 Assembly polls when the party bagged 78 seats out of 126.

So how was it that the Congress leadership failed to placate him despite his influence and his role in the party’s success? Sarma, who joined the BJP in 2015, has been a vocal critic of Rahul Gandhi since then in almost every interview to the media. He had alleged that Rahul Gandhi’s whimsical attitude is harming the party. When he resigned from Congress in 2015, he wrote a scathing letter to Sonia Gandhi, in which he alleged that Congress lacks inner-party democracy. “When I had humbly told Rahul Gandhi in front of Central observers that 52 MLAs out of 79 categorically and emphatically sought the ouster of Tarun Gogoi, he answered so arrogantly that it is his prerogative to change chief minister.”

Since then, Sarma has never minced his words when it comes to criticising the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi. In one of his interviews, he said that Rahul Gandhi may be a good human being but he is not a good politician. In another interview, he had said that Rahul Gandhi’s words don’t match his actions.

In 2017, when Rahul Gandhi shared a short video of his dog ‘Piddi’ eating treats, it was Himanta who countered him with a tweet. “Sir @OfficeOfRG, who knows him better than me. Still remember you busy feeding biscuits 2 him while we wanted to discuss urgent Assam’s issues,” said Sarma who met Gandhi several times in 2015 before calling it quits.

Sarma’s leaning towards politics became evident during his college days in the early 1980s when he started working under then AASU leaders Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Bhrigu Kumar Phukan. Former Congress Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia took Himanta under his wings while the latter was pursuing his law degree from the Guwahati University. Notably, he wrested the Jalukbari constituency in 2001 as a Congress candidate from AGP’s Phukan who held the constituency between 1985 and 1996. He then worked under Tarun Gogoi and went on to become his blue-eyed boy until Gaurav Gogoi entered politics. While Tarun Gogoi made his priority clear in terms of his successor, Sarma’s politicking to make himself a possible chief minister after Gogoi did not appear to materialize in the Congress. Following this, he held several futile meetings with Rahul Gandhi and finally resigned from the party in 2015.

While the BJP, which had accused him once of corruption, welcomed him with open arms and was made the Convenor of Assam BJP’s Election Management Committee. When he, along with Sonowal, scripted BJP’s historic win, Sarma was made a Cabinet minister with the important portfolios of Finance, Health and Family Welfare, Education and Public Works Department. With the BJP securing Assam for the second consecutive time, he is now at the helm of affairs in the state.

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