Once Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s most trusted lieutenant and former health and education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Friday formally joined the BJP after a huge road show that lasted for more than five hours with thousands of people cheering him, and a few thousand also following him as he drove in an open vehicle about 25 kms from the airport to the state BJP office.
Sarma’s supporters, who mostly came from his Jalukbari constituency, burst crackers, played drums and huge cymbals, and showered flower petals on him throughout the 25-km roadshow, while welcome archs were also erected at several places to greet him.
“It was written on my forehead that I have to spend the past 23 years in the Congress, what could I do? It was also written on my forehead that as a Congressman I occasionally abuse the BJP, what could I do? Today I dedicate myself fully to the BJP and to prime minister Narendra Modi,” Sarma, who had fallen out with Gogoi after the latter introduced his son Gaurav to politics in 2012, said at a function in the state BJP office where he was formally handed over the party membership.
Sarma’s joining the BJP has sent shivers through the rank and file of the ruling Congress party, especially after about 10 other party legislators greeted Sarma as he arrived from New Delhi in the LGBI airport here on Friday morning. Though chief minister Gogoi and APCC chief Anjan Dutta claimed that Sarma’s exit would not affect the party in any manner, today’s roadshow signaled that all is not well in store for the Congress in the ensuing months.
With Assam going to polls by April 2016, former minister Sarma today also said that many more Congress legislators were also willing to join the BJP. “I can bring many Congress MLAs to the BJP, but there will be a problem of accommodating them in the party,” he said.
Sarma, who was first warned by Chief Minister Gogoi when he had made his dream of one day becoming chief minister of the state way back in 2011 (“Don’t dream, work,” Gogoi had then said), later began openly revolting when the chief minister launched his son Gaurav. In July last year, Sarma claimed support of 52 of the Congress party’s 78 legislators and staked claim to become the CLP leader, which was soon turned down by AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
The function where Sarma formally joined the BJP was attended among others by state unit chief Siddhartha Bhattacharyya, BJP national secretary and Assam in-charge Mahendra Singh, Lok Sabha members Bijoya Chakravarty, Rameswar Teli and Kamakhya Prasad Tasha among others.