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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Sonowal or Himanta: Assam waits to see who its next chief minister will be

In the 126-member Assembly, the NDA has won 75 seats, Congress-led ‘Mahajot’ 50 while the remaining one went to jailed activist Akhil Gogoi.

Written by Abhishek Saha | Guwahati |
Updated: May 5, 2021 4:25:44 am
The primary contenders for the chief minister's post are Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswa Sarma. (File Photos)

Two days after Assembly election results were declared in Assam, suspense prevailed on Tuesday over who would be chosen the next Chief Minister of the state — the primary contenders are the incumbent Sarbananda Sonowal and influential BJP leader and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

In the 126-member Assembly, the BJP-led NDA won 75 seats and the Congress-led alliance won 50. Jailed activist Akhil Gogoi won the remaining seat.

On Tuesday morning, Sarma told the press in Guwahati, “BJP president JP Nadda is currently in Kolkata. So, I don’t think there will be any meeting [regarding this] today. I think meeting will be held tomorrow (Wednesday) or the day after (Thursday)… Since everything will be decided from Delhi, therefore, we have to wait.”

“Parliamentary board of the party will meet in Delhi. Here, someone might come to take the opinion of a few people,” he added.

State BJP chief Ranjeet Dass said Union agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar will visit Guwahati Wednesday or Thursday as an observer of the BJP’s parliamentary board.

“We will maintain our internal democracy — the opinion of MPs and MLAs will be taken in this regard. We will follow whatever the party decides,” Dass said, adding that only the party’s high command will decide who will be the chief minister.

A day after the results, Sonowal tweeted: “A mandate for Sabhyata, Suraksha & Vikas. People have rewarded BJP+ for pro-people, development oriented policies that our Govt has undertaken under PM @narendramodiji’s leadership. I bow to the people of Assam for the huge mandate & promise to continue the development journey.”

The BJP has not announced Sonowal — who led the party to victory in 2016 and held firm ground as the state battled issues like the preparation of the NRC and the implementation of the CAA — as its CM face.So far, he has not made any statement about the party’s CM choice.

On the other hand, Sarma is arguably the most influential politician in Northeastern India right now — the BJP’s key man and troubleshooter in the region. He is the convenor of the North-East Democratic Alliance, a BJP-led grouping of the regional parties in the Northeast.

As health minister of Assam, Sarma’s handling of the Covid crisis has been applauded and as the state’s finance minister, he is credited for implementing some of the most important welfare schemes, which have yielded electorally.

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