Tribune News Service
New Delhi, March 11
The ruling BJP’s hesitancy in clearly naming its Chief Minister’s face in Assam, the only state where it is defending a government in these elections, is contrary to its stated stance that it always contests under the incumbent (CM) in states where it is in power.
It also hints at prevailing tensions and undercurrents in the state leadership, an indication of which came when Wednesday former deputy speaker Dilip Kumar Paul resigned from the party after he was denied a ticket.
Stating that he will contest as an independent, Paul claimed the BJP in Assam “is being run by people involved in various syndicates and they did not want him because he refused to take part in it”. “CM Sarbananda Sonowal is a good man, but he is helpless before the syndicate raj. If we look at the list of candidates in Cachar district, we can see candidates who will help in smuggling of illegal drugs, various weapons, etc,” he was quoted as saying after senior leader Himanta Biswa Sarma failed to convince rebel leaders of the Barak Valley to not contest as independents. They include Paul, former union minister Kabindra Purkayastha’s son Kanad Purkayastha and two sitting MLAs.
BJP leaders, who call such rumblings “an expected feature of any election”, denied any trouble in the state leadership. Aiming to strike the right notes, they said the decision over its chief minister candidate will be taken by the Parliamentary Board at the time of formation of the government.
Observers, however, say it is clear the party does not want to rock the boat and upset different factions, including supporters of Sonowal and more influential Sarma, who is also the convenor of the all-important North East Democratic Front (NEDA). In these elections, Sonowal and Sarma are contesting from Majuli and Jalukbari, respectively—the constituencies they currently represent.
Sarma had been dropping hints that he is not interested in contesting Assembly elections and sending signals to the central leadership that either he should be the charge of the state or be inducted into the central government. Amid the buzz around election campaign song centered around him, sources said Sarma will never agree to be a minister in the state government now.
With the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) snapping ties with the saffron party and formally joining the Congress-led ‘Grand Alliance’ (with Left and parties like perfume baron Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front adding interesting angles) the fight for Assam is closer than the BJP will like to project, say observers calling “Assam tougher than West Bengal” even though the latter is hogging most of the attention and limelight.
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