Guwahati, June 21: Rupjyoti Kurmi who represented Assam Legislative Assembly four consecutive sessions from Mariani LAC of Jorhat district has joined the ruling BJP on Monday at a function in the presence of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Kurmi had resigned from the Congress and the assembly.

Assam CM took to Twitter to welcome the Rupjyoti Kurmi and wrote “We welcome Sri Rupjyoti Kurmi to BJP family. A prominent leader from Tea – Tribe Community & 4-term MLA, he has always been working for the uplift of the poor & development of the region. @BJP4Assam shall immensely gain from his experience. Best wishes”

A four-time legislator from Mariani in Jorhat district quit the Congress on 18 June by saying that only older leaders are being promoted and that Rahul Gandhi is unable to shoulder the responsibilities of the party. Kurmi criticized the party leadership for aligning with Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front in the Assam elections.

Though Kurmi’s exit hasn’t received the kind of national media attention as that of another recent exit from the Congress – that of former Union minister Jitin Prasada – it is in fact a bigger blow for the Congress given that he has a much stronger base than the latter.

Rupjyoti Kurmi was the strongest tea-tribe leader in Congress. He was the only leader from this important demographic in Assam, who managed to win his seat in the Assembly elections earlier this year. All others like Roselina Tirkey, Durga Bhumij, and Pranjal Ghatowar lost their respective seats.

Their defeats were the result of a broader shift of tea tribe votes in Assam – from being a strong Congress vote bank to an equally solid one for BJP now.

Kurmi won from Mariani despite this shift, though, it did impact his margin. But his exit now means that Congress’ prospects of winning back this crucial section have become even more remote.

Also Read: Assam Congress MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi quits party, to join BJP on June 21

Kurmi was one among only five Congress MLAs in the politically crucial upper Assam region. The other MLAs who won are Sushanta Buragohain in Thowra, Leader of Opposition Debabrata Saikia in Nazira, Bhaskar Jyoti Baruah in former CM Tarun Gogoi’s seat Titabar and Bharat Narah in Naoboicha.

Among these, Narah won largely due to the Congress’ alliance with AIUDF, which had held the seat in the previous Assembly but conceded it during the seat-sharing arrangement.

In comparison, the party has 24 MLAs in central Assam, lower Assam, and Barak Valley. This means there is a very big vacuum in the Opposition space in upper Assam, which has traditionally dominated Assam politics.

If the Congress continues to decline in this region, it could potentially open up space for leaders like Akhil Gogoi, who won from Sibsagar, the seat of the erstwhile Ahom kingdom.

Interestingly, even within BJP, the centre of power has shifted from Sarbananda Sonowal, who hails from upper Assam to Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is from lower Assam.