Term ends 2016
Lok Sabha seats: Cong 3/14 (-4)
Assembly segments led: Cong 24/126 (-55)
Four weeks ago, he stopped short of calling Tarun Gogoi apadartha, or worthless. “Is he an apadartha?” Himanta Biswa Sarma asked live, on almost all Guwahati-based news channels. In February 2013, he had called Gogoi astamita yatrar lok, or one heading towards sunset.
Sarma, health and education minister and seen as number two in Gogoi’s government in Assam, was once his most trusted lieutenant but is now leading the clamour for his ouster. He is by no means the Congress’s only option to replace Gogoi but his ambitions have always been clear. He first began dreaming of becoming CM in 2010 when Gogoi underwent a cardiac surgery in Mumbai. When Gogoi did not fade as some predicted, Sarma continued to back him until one day he declared on social media that he has a dream of becoming CM. And since 2012, when Gogoi launched his son Garuav, the Congress Legislature Party has been divided into two.
Sarma’s camp says it has 46 MLAs, who often appear together live on local channels, one of these owned by Sarma’s wife. He has also started giving dates for Gogoi’s removal, though at least two of these have passed.
This March, Sarma had told The Indian Express, “Let the results be out, and I will ensure that this man (Gogoi) is ousted.” When the Congress did fare poorly, Sarma was the first to raise his voice, among 46 of the party’s 79 legislators demanding a change in leadership. On May 26, as one minister announced Sarma would be CM, Sarma said, “You (Gogoi) can neither keep me in your cabinet, nor afford to drop me.”
Sarma called Gogoi apadartha after minister Rakibul Hussain, a Gogoi loyalist, had reminded Sarma about a terror case Sarma once had against him. The case, apparently closed, dates back to the 1990s when Sarma was arrested for alleged extortion on behalf of the ULFA. “If he (Gogoi) is really an efficient home minister, let him show some courage by pointing out if there is a TADA case pending,” Sarma said.
Sarma’s website shows his ambition. It begins with Robert Frost’s verses “…promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep”, introduces him as an “idealist” and “practitioner”, and describes his vision of Assam as a state with all human development indices as envisaged by the UN and as implemented by the UPA under the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi.