NEW DELHI/ GUWAHATI: Newly-elected BJP MLAs in Assam will meet on Sunday to finalise the selection of the new chief minister of the state amid likelihood of Himanta Biswa Sarma pipping incumbent Sarbananda Sonowal to the post.
Sources said the party leadership, which deliberated the vexed issue in the face of Sarma’s dogged insistence on taking the wheel, will announce its decision after meeting the newly-elected MLAs at Library Auditorium in Guwahati. Sonowal, sports minister at the Centre before moving to Assam, will be brought to the Centre, should Sarma nose ahead in the final lap on Sunday, sources said.
Union agriculture minister Narendra Tomar along with two central observers, party general secretary Arun Singh and vice president Baijyant Jay Panda will be present on the occasion.
However, sources said the meeting in Guwahati will be a proforma exercise to ratify the choice of the leadership which might favour Sarma, the resourceful No 2 in the outgoing government.
Sarma, who crossed over from Congress before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, more than equalled chief minister Sonowal in influence and prominence. Regarded as a big factor in the party’s wins in 2016 polls and 2019 Lok Sabha polls as well as the handling of the challenges of the anti-CAA agitation and the pandemic, the former Congress leader is also the spearhead of the party’s effort to increase its presence in the north-east. Apart from handling almost all the important departments except home which is under Sonowal, the former Congress leader also serves as the convenor of North East Democratic Alliance ( NEDA), BJP’s successful “special purpose vehicle” for expanding its influence in the north-east, which has dwarfed Sonowal in profile.
Sarma’s ambition, especially his desire to take over Sonowal’s job after having persevered as the No 2, at least in de jure way, is no secret either.
Sonowal along with Sarma reached the national capital on Saturday and met the party brass separately before they met them together in the third round. Union home minister Amit Shah, party president JP Nadda and general secretary (organisation) BL Santhosh sat with the two Assam leaders and the entire process of meetings took place for almost four hours.