Inner party consultations on deciding the next chief minister of Assam, with incumbent Sarbanand Sonowal and health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma being in contention, is expected to be finalised soon and the party’s parliamentary board is likely to meet virtually to endorse the name.
Though Sonowal has been chief minister for the past five years and BJP has returned to office, his name was not announced while Sarma has made it clear that he expects his claim to be considered by the BJP brass.
Agriculture minister Narendra Singh Tomar will arrive in Guwahati on Tuesday as an observer of BJP’s parliamentary board amid some discussion on the post of deputy chief minister being created for the first time in the state
The choice is not easy as Sonowal is a popular leader with a non-controversial style. His roots in AASU politics make him an organic figure that Assamese sentiment can relate to. Sarma has proved his mettle as an astute political manager who has helped expand BJP’s presence in the north-east. He is also a successful electoral campaign.
Unlike in 2016, BJP did not name the CM face in the state this time, which has fuelled a debate on who will take the top post. Sarma has responded to queries by saying it was for the parliamentary board to decide. He has even gone on record saying that if Modi-Shah decide on a name other than him, he would not have any regrets.
Sonowal on Monday thanked all sections of people of the state for giving a clear mandate to the BJP-led alliance.
While BJP has still not made up its mind, a section of top leaders is said to be wary of changing the leadership given Sonowal’s success in governance and welfare schemes.
Sarma’s chances are not ruled out given that he not only campaigned rigorously and played a key role in highlighting AIUDF chief Badruddin Ajmal as a patron of illegals but also has been the driving force behind the North-East Democratic Alliance, which was formed by BJP to consolidate itself in the region.