Lok Sabha Elections 2019: Party ‘responsibility’ thwarts BJP’s Himanta Sarma’s Lok…

Ending weeks of speculation, BJP president Amit Shah on Thursday announced that senior party leader from Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, won’t be contesting the coming Lok Sabha polls.

In a series of tweets posted minutes ahead of the BJP releasing its first list of candidates in New Delhi, Shah stated that since Sarma is a senior minister in the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government in Assam and also the convenor of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), the party wants him to continue with those responsibilities for the time being.

“The BJP central committee requested Sarma to continue as NEDA chairman, work for the overall development of the northeast and help coordinate between the party and the government at the Centre,” Shah wrote in a series of tweets in Hindi.

“I hope Assam BJP and workers across northeast will accept this decision,” he added.

For the past few months, Sarma, a former Congress minister who joined the BJP in 2015, had been dropping hints in his public meetings and interviews with journalists that he was interested in leaving Guwahati and shifting to New Delhi.

The second most powerful minister in the Sarbananda Sonowal-led cabinet, the 50-year-old, who holds several key portfolios, had played an important role in BJP’s first assembly poll victory in Assam in 2016.

Sarma was soon made convenor of NEDA, a BJP-led front of anti-Congress parties in northeast. His efforts were crucial in BJP forming governments in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Tripura and joining coalition governments in Meghalaya and Nagaland in the past 3 years.

Though Sarma is from Guwahati and has a strong base there, speculations were rife that he is interested in contesting from the Tezpur Lok Sabha seat, a seat represented by party colleague Ram Prasad Sarmah.

Also Read | Lok Sabha elections 2019: BJP releases list of 8 Assam seats; drops 3 sitting MPs

Last week, after his name went missing from list of party contenders for the Tezpur seat, Ram Prasad Sarmah, a prominent lawyer who is from the Gorkha community, resigned from the BJP.

This was followed by demands by the state’s Gorkha bodies, which represent the Nepali speaking voters, to give the Tezpur ticket to Sarmah. The sitting MP also indicated that he would return to BJP if Prime Minister Narendra Modi “requests” him.

“There are nearly 25 lakh Gorkha residents in Assam. We would be forced to vote against BJP in the coming election if the party denies the ticket to Sarmah,” Prem Tamang, president of All Assam Gorkha Students Union (AAGSU) told journalists on Monday.

Himanta Sarma’s Lok Sabha plan may also have suffered due to his mercurial rise in the saffron party within 3 years overshadowing many veteran leaders like former union minister Bijaya Chakrabarty who represents Guwahati and Rajen Gohain, the minister of state for railways in the present NDA government, who represents Nagaon.

BJP is aiming to win 20-22 of the 25 seats in the northeast. Assam has 14, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Tripura have two seats each, and Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim one seat each.

The saffron party will contest 10 seats in Assam while alliance partners Asom Gana Parishad will contest 3 and Bodo People’s Front from one. On Thursday, BJP announced the candidates for 8 seats.

The party is still undecided on Nagaon and Tezpur seats. The names of 3 of the 7 sitting MPs of the party from the state were missing from the first list.

Also Read | BJP first list out, PM to contest from Varanasi, Amit Shah from Gandhinagar

First Published: Mar 21, 2019 23:12 IST

Updated: March 22, 2019 — 7:30 am