The announcement came after the newly-elected legislative members of the assembly ratified the decision during a meeting at the Library Auditorium in Guwahati today.
BJP leaders BL Santosh, Baijayant Jay Panda and Ajay Jamwal were also present at the Assam Legislative Assembly for the BJP Legislative Party meet where Himanta’s claim over the top post was upheld by the MLAs.
Sonowal had resigned as chief minister of Assam earlier in the day making way for Sarma whose dogged insistence on the post got him the chief ministership of a state where he has been politically active for more than 20 years.
In the 126-seat assembly, BJP won 60 seats while its alliance partners Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) won nine seats and United People’s Party Liberal (UPPL) won six seats. Congress trailing in second place won 29 seats and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) won 16 seats. Bodo People’s Front (BPF) had won four seats.
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.
As Himanta Sarma (R) pips outgoing CM Sarbananda Sonowal (L), the latter is likely to return to the Centre where he held the sports portfolio before becoming Assam CM.
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.