Whether the absence of Himanta Biswa Sarma in the thanksgiving speeches of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal signifies more than just a casual omission may take a long time to unravel.
However, with allies as temperamental as AGP and BPF to contend with, the BJP leaders cannot afford to miss out on acknowledging Sarma too frequently. As the new BJP government takes charge in Assam, the burden of expectations aside, all eyes will be on the Sonowal-Sarma chemistry. The change in status was already apparent when party president Amit Shah who during his campaign speeches had always mentioned the efforts of the “Sonowal-Sarma” duo spoke unequivocally of the Sonowal government as the future of Assam though he did acknowledge Sarma’s role in the victory. Sarma heaped praises on Modi and Shah during the swearing in ceremony.
Sarma who had been associated with the exercise of choosing ministers as much as he had been associated with the campaign – along with Sonowal, Shah and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav – would of course feel happy to have got his man in. Pallavlochan Das who took oath as a minister of state was one of the 9 sitting Congress MLAs who walked out with Himanta and one of only seven who contested the elections on a BJP ticket. All of them won.
The speculation about how Sarma works with Sonowal as his boss notwithstanding, the former Congress number 2 is a patient if ambitious man. He hopes to consolidate his position in the party as a key strategist and has already publicly stated that he would want to be entrusted with the task of spearheading BJP’s expansion in the northeast. How much importance BJP accords to him as an organisation man will decide the course and the stability of the state government too.
Sarma many believe, will not rock the boat before 2019. He has been number two in the Assam government for years and he would not have made the switch to hold the same post. Political observers believe Sarma’s long term game is to hit Parliament, not later than 2019. So he will patiently wait till the next Lok Sabha elections.
What happens after that depends on how well party president Amit Shah handles his newly acquired weapon.