Assam, May 9: BJP’s legislative party in Assam will decide on the state’s next chief minister on Sunday, a week after the saffron party and its allies got the mandate to form government there for the second consecutive term.
The Parliamentary Board of BJP on Saturday evening named Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar and the party’s national general secretary Arun Singh as observers of the legislative party meet to be held in Guwahati.
Sources said the next Assam CM was chosen in the meeting that BJP chief JP Nadda held with incumbent Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and senior state minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Saturday, but it would be made public after the legislative party’s decision.
BJP and its allies won 75 out of the total 126 seats in the Assembly elections, but the party was undecided about the CM mainly due to the tussle between Sonowal and Sarma camp.
Several MLAs belonging to both camps met their leaders separately since the result was declared on May 2, making it tough for the party to decide.
Sarma, 52, quit Congress in 2015 after rebelling against former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.
Sarma and some of his loyalist MLAs switched over to BJP in August 2016, but the saffron party had already named Sonowal as their CM candidate.
The 59-year-old Sonowal, who belongs to an indigenous community Sonowal Kachari, has been the party’s face since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in its claim of protecting the identity of the indigenous people in Assam.
BJP formed its first government in Assam in 2016 mainly due to its promise to protect the Assamese identity against the perceived threat from foreigners. Sources said that the party does not have strong ground to remove Sonowal, given his “clean image” and the performance in the past five years.
Sarma, on the other hand, has proven himself to be an efficient poll strategist and crisis manager since 2015, not only in Assam but also in the rest of the Northeast.
According to sources, Sarma enjoys the upper hand in the legislative party given the fact that most of the MLAs, who got elected this time either are his loyalists or are “indebted” to him for helping them to win the elections.
The legislative party meet will take place at a time when the state is struggling with a spike in Covid-19 positive cases.
Assam on Saturday reported 5, 756 new Covid-19 positive cases, which is the highest single-day surge since the outbreak of the pandemic. The state also saw 50 Covid-19 deaths on Saturday.