GUWAHATI: The Cotton University — erstwhile Cotton College — fraternity was elated after receiving the news of their most popular student union leader from the late 1980s becoming the 15th chief minister of Assam.
One of the breeding grounds of future politicians, Cotton College produced six former chief ministers of Assam- Gopinath Bordoloi, Mahendra Mohan Choudhury, Sarat Chandra Singha, Jogendra Nath Hazarika, Hiteswar Saikia and Bhumidhar Barman- in the post-independence era. Despite the Cotton alumni playing an influential role across the political spectrum of the state all along, a Cottonian could not adorn the chief minister’s chair in Assam since 1996. As Himanta Biswa Sarma is set to be sworn in as the new chief minister on Monday, both the alumni and students of the leading higher education institution have pinned high hopes from him, which is far broader than transforming the education scenario of the state.
“He (Himanta) had a great zeal to work for students and society. At his initiative, Cotton College was announced as a Centre of Excellence. It was because of his efforts that Cotton College got transformed into a university. With sheer hard work, he came a long way to become a political stalwart of the northeast and the new CM is our very own CM,” said Jagadish Dutta, general secretary of Cotton Alumni Association. He was hopeful that under Himanta’s leadership, Assam will become one of the top-3 states of the country.
Himanta drew severe criticism from the Cottonians, who took the lead in intensifying the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) when the legislation was passed in December 2019. However, many said they trusted Himanta’s faith in Cotton University, despite differences on a range of political issues. Besides being a frontline leader of the All Assam Students’ Union (Aasu), Himanta was a three-time general secretary of Cotton College Union Society (CCUS) in 1988-89, 1989-90 and 1991-1992.
Incumbent general secretary of Cotton University Students’ Union, Rahul Bordoloi, said on personal grounds, they never attacked Himanta. He, however, said on socio-political issues such as CAA, Cottonians will continue to remain firm on the stance. “We feel proud at Himanta Biswa Sarma’s elevation to the chief minister’s post. He is fond of his alma mater and we consider him as our guardian,” said Bordoloi, a border of the Sitanath Brahma Choudhury Hostel of the university, where Himanta spent a significant period of his student life.
The general students, who could not come out to the streets to celebrate the occasion, were equally jubilant after the end of the week-long dilemma on the new CM of Assam. “Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma, a three-time general secretary of CCUS paved his way from being a popular student leader to 15th chief minister of Assam. How does he address the issue of CAA and also implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord is what we are looking for. As of now, we expect an eligible cabinet under his leadership that plans and works to tackle the pandemic that has affected our state,” said Rahul Gupta, a postgraduate fourth-semester student of the state university.