Kolkata: Himanta Biswa Sarma, popularly known as the Bhartiya Janata Party’s “Chanakya” of the Northeast, has single-handedly steered the party’s Assembly election campaign in Assam, a state that the BJP is likely to win on Sunday if the exit polls are to be believed. A likely victory is thus all set to make Himanta Biswa Sarma the main contender for the Chief Minister’s post. Even though Sarma is not the man in the chair, currently he is undoubtedly the face of Assam BJP, which has started portraying him as the potential Chief Ministerial candidate. Sarma has campaigned extensively throughout the state in his unique style to consolidate votes for the BJP, the results of which are finding a reflection in the exit poll predictions. In fact all the polls have given a clear edge to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) over the Congress’ United Progressive Alliance (UPA), saying that the NDA will surpass the majority mark of 64 seats.
An immensely popular leader, with tremendous ground connect, Sarma is known to shake a leg with the common people on “Akou Ebar, Modi Sarkar”, during election rallies. His connection with the people and political stronghold in the state have benefited the BJP immensely.
During his election campaign, he criss-crossed 95 constituencies, addressing 102 public meetings, padayatras, and cycle rallies. He is famously known as “Mama” among young voters.
Apart from being the
star campaigner, he has been active in giving the party a political direction in the state. He has accompanied alliance candidates in their rallies and restrained the voices of dissent within the party.
One of his biggest achievements in Assam as a BJP politician has been breaking the Congress’ back in the state. In fact the Congress in Assam regards Biswa Sarma walking out of the party as its biggest loss, which has decimated the party in the state to the extent that it cannot hope to come back to power unless in alliance with a minority-focused party such as Badruddin Ajmal’s All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF). However by aligning with the AIUDF, Congress has opened itself up for serious attack from Biswa Sarma, who has charged it of polarising the elections on religious lines. He has been quoted as saying, “If Congress had contested alone, the election would have been fought on the issue of development. But by aligning with the communal AIUDF, they have polarised the election and made it a conflict of civilisation.” He has asserted that the BJP does not need the votes of the “Miyas” (Bengali Muslims).
He has maintained silence on the issue of the Citizenship Amendment Act, as it is ferociously opposed by the people of Assam. The BJP has not cleared its stand on the CAA, which might help it in the election.
Sarma, who has managed various portfolios in the previous government, is considered to be the brain behind implementing welfare schemes such as the distribution of Rs 830 a month to 2.2 million households and giving grants to various sections of society. His management of the Covid crisis as Assam Health Minister seems to have impressed many people as per exit polls.
Sarma’s political presence is not confined to Assam. He is the convener of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), which extends his influence to all seven sister states. He played an important role in forming the first BJP government in Manipur in 2017.
Ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Sarma wanted to be in Delhi to be in national politics. However, Amit Shah in a statement signalled him to be a part of state politics by asserting that the party needed Sarma’s service in the poll campaign in the Northeast.
In February 2020, he had expressed his unwillingness to contest the elections this time. Even then the BJP gave him the ticket. This reflects his importance and power in the party. The BJP has not projected the Chief Minister’s face this time, thus implying that Assam is likely to get a new Chief Minister if the BJP returns to power, and it goes without saying that Biswa Sarma is that man.