Changing political scenario in Assam after Himanta’s switch to BJP

Himanta Biswa Sarma, arguably most discussed, controversial politician for last 10 years in Assam, has recently announced his decision to join BJP ( Bharatiya Janata Party) all of a sudden, ending months of speculation. He had earlier resigned from Assam cabinet as Education and health Minister from Congress Government in Assam led by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi citing differences with the CM.

Himanta Biswa Sarma started his political career in Congress under Hiteswar Saikia, one of the most shrewd politician in Assam and former Chief Minister of Assam. He has risen from humble beginning to be a powerful leader in Congress and was instrumental in landslide win by Congress in 2011 in third consecutive terms.

But soon, he fell out with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi. While he does not seem to admit, but he was thought to be heir to Tarun Gogoi before the entry to Gaurav Gogoi in Assam’s political arena, creating hurdles in his ambition of becoming chief minister of Assam. So he openly revolted against CM Tarun Gogoi and garnered support of 52 MLAs, but Congress High Command did not approve of the change of Chief Minister. So, he had to resign from Tarun Gogoi cabinet in 2013.

So, how does switching of Himanta Biswa Sharma change the political scenario in Assam ?
Himanta Biswa Sarma has built up very good support base during his long 23 years old political career and in last election, he could help elect some of his close friends, juniors from his college get elected to Assam Assembly. Also he has some loyal supporters who are likely to switch to BJP along with him, if not immediately but before 2016 election. It may depend on availability of BJP tickets for them.

Apart from his loyal supporters, he also has wide support among many cutting across communities in Assam, due to his commendable work in Education and Health department where he was cabinet minister. He had made both departments efficient and even his enemies admit that some noticeable improvements took place.

Himanta Biswa Sarma also has good personal relation with many leaders in Assam across party lines. Apart from them, he is also widely popular among many ACS/APS officers, college teachers, TET teachers, doctors etc.

Himanta Biswa Sarma was most visible face in Assam politics which dominated news paper pages, TV screen with controversies, news etc. After his departure, Cong will find difficult to project a leader matching his visibility, as young. Tarun Gogoi is already 84 years old and his son Gourav Gogoi is too young and inexperienced, though seems to enjoy support from Congress high command and learning his politics fast. Still, its unlikely that Congress will have anyone matching Himanta Biswa Sarma in 2016 election who would be able to counter him.

So it seems that, now BJP becoming single largest party in 2016 election is almost certain.

Assamese voters have been voting on ethnic lines too, so Tarun Gogoi being an Ahom, he might be able to get majority of the Ahom votes in upper Assam. Most probably, this will be countered by BJP with tribal and tea tribe votes.

Either way, it seems, BJP will get hugely benefited by joining of Himanta Biswa Sarma. Assembly election in 2016 would be interesting and new political alignments may take place where Cong may align with AIUDF or even with AGP in order to keep BJP out of power.

This is guest post where Author wants to remain anonymous.

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