In a departure from its recently set practice, the BJP Thursday declared Union Minister and Assam BJP chief Sarbananda Sonowal as its chief ministerial candidate for the Assembly elections in Assam, where it has high hopes on its electoral performance among the five poll-bound states this year.
The BJP parliamentary board, which met on Thursday, the first time after Amit Shah was re-elected the party’s national president for a full three-year term, took the decision to project Sonowal as the party’s face in the state. This was a clear departure from its practice of not projecting a chief ministerial candidate ahead of polls.
The party had not declared a chief ministerial candidate when it faced Assembly elections in Bihar, Maharashtra, Jharkhand, Haryana or in Jammu and Kashmir, with the exception of Delhi, where it had declared Kiran Bedi as its face. The party had won elections in four states, but faced a humiliating defeat in Bihar and Delhi.
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“The people of Assam know Sonowal as a national hero. The parliamentary board has decided that the party will fight the Assam polls under his leadership,” Union Minister and Parliamentary Board member J P Nadda told reporters after an hour-long meeting of the BJP’s top panel.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present at the meeting.
The decision, according to sources, was taken after the party realised that “too much exposure” of the Prime Minister in the state elections, in the absence of a face for the state polls, would damage his image. PM Modi led the poll campaign during Bihar and Delhi Assembly elections.
However, Nadda did not clarify whether the BJP would declare chief ministerial candidates for the other poll-bound states, including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry.
The parliamentary board also felicitated Shah who was elected unopposed for a fresh term as the party chief on January 24.