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Uncertainty in Assam over BJP’s CM face

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal

Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal

Though the fate of Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal was sealed on March 27, uncertainty remains in the Bharatiya Janata Party over the candidature of chief ministerial candidate of the party in the state. He is contesting from Majuli Scheduled Tribe reserved Assembly constituency in Dibrugarh district where polling is already over in the first phase.

Majuli, it needs to be mentioned, is the largest riverine island in the world and is situated in Brahmaputra.

Sonowal, who became the Union sports minister in the first Narendra Modi cabinet in 2014, was made the chief ministerial candidate of the party ahead of the 2016 Assembly poll.

As there was no towering leader in the Assam BJP the party proposed his name. As he was from ST community the party was quick to capitalise this opportunity though he was till 2011 in the Asom Gana Parishad.

However, just eight months before the last Assembly election, that is in August 2015 Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was number-two in the then Tarun Gogoi government of the Congress joined the saffron party. Sarma was from Brahmin caste and had a much bigger influence among the upper castes. But the party continued to go with Sonowal following the understanding that after 2021 election victory Sarma would be made the CM.

However, the party did not deem it fit to project Sarma, the present number-two and finance minister, as the chief minister candidate as it may turn ST votes away.

Assam watchers are of the view that the BJP may once again make Sonowal a minister in the Union cabinet, but is not making Sarma’s name public. Sonowal has been fielded again because the ST voters may think that he would again become the chief minister of the state.

The next two phases of poll are going to take place on April 1 and 6.

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