On the nighttime of March 19, successful a authorities impermanent location successful Sadiya, a municipality successful Assam’s Tinsukia district, Congress person Rahul Gandhi, Chhattisgarh main curate Bhupesh Baghel and All India Congress Committee wide caput in-charge of Assam, Jitendra Singh, were engaged successful a strategical treatment implicit the party’s run for the ongoing assembly predetermination successful the state. Later that night, Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was starring the BJP’s campaign, sat listening to the 30-minute-long speech playing connected a compartment telephone of 1 of his aides. A section Congress person contiguous astatine the impermanent location had secretly recorded the conversation. This incidental reflects to what grade Sarma went to guarantee a triumph for the BJP, a enactment helium joined aft quitting the Congress successful 2015. Rahul Gandhi had declined to marque Sarma main curate of Assam successful spot of the incumbent Tarun Gogoi astatine the time.
Six years aft leaving the Congress, Sarma took oath arsenic the 15th main curate of Assam aft delivering a 2nd consecutive triumph for the BJP successful the state’s assembly poll. While a two-decade-long committedness to the Congress could not person the enactment brass of his eligibility to helm the state, the BJP wised up to Sarma’s abilities wrong six years. More significantly, the BJP replaced the incumbent main curate Sarbananda Sonowal, adjacent though the enactment returned to powerfulness based connected the show of his government. This unprecedented determination demonstrates the value of Sarma not lone successful the authorities of Assam and the Northeast, but besides successful the larger crippled program of the BJP and its ‘ideological fountainhead’, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
The enactment realised that much than the Sonowal government’s performance, the driving unit down the BJP’s electoral triumph was Sarma’s way grounds of astir 20 years arsenic an businesslike curate some successful the Congress and BJP governments, on with his mastery astatine winning elections and successful situation management. As the wellness minister, helium not lone ramped up wellness infrastructure successful the authorities by adding 3 caller aesculapian assemblage hospitals—four more, including an AIIMS, are nether construction—but besides brought successful respective people-friendly measures, similar making it mandatory for aesculapian graduates to service 1 twelvemonth successful agrarian areas for admittance successful PG courses. As acquisition minister, Sarma introduced a transparent communal written trial successful 2011 to enlistee implicit 200,000 teachers.
But his superb absorption of the archetypal question of Covid past twelvemonth gained him unparalleled popularity among the masses. He not lone visited ICUs, crematoriums and quarantine centres crossed the state, but monitored each improvement and personally responded to each telephone for assistance done societal media oregon implicit the phone. During the predetermination campaign, radical jostled to get a glimpse of Sarma, to interaction him oregon instrumentality a selfie with him. And aft a young miss wrote an affectional poem dedicated to him, successful which she referred to him arsenic “mama”, Sarma became the cosmopolitan “mama” to Assam’s younger generation.
The shrewd governmental leader, though, understands that specified popularity tin beryllium short-lived. “If I marque a mistake tomorrow, radical volition hide the past,” says Sarma. However, his governmental web and the loyalty of his followers wrong the enactment are secure. He whitethorn person been successful the BJP for conscionable six years, but his grip connected the enactment organisation and idiosyncratic equation with the RSS, which was initially wary of his benignant of functioning, is unmatched. He came to the BJP with 10 Congress MLAs, but connected May 9, 45 of the 60 BJP MLAs successful the authorities backed him for main curate successful spot of Sonowal. “It’s due to the fact that helium believes successful winning friends. He helps adjacent those who person plotted against him. And for his loyalists, helium tin spell to immoderate grade to support them, adjacent astatine the outgo of his ain career,” says Pijush Hazarika, a curate successful Sarma’s furniture and his astir trusted lieutenant for 2 decades.
Sarma besides entered the RSS’s bully books by showing unwavering committedness to its ideology. From being the astir vocal protagonist of the RSS-backed CAA (Citizenship Amendment Act), which provoked monolithic fashionable protestation from Assamese citizens, to shutting down government-sponsored madrassas and taking a nationalist basal against Miya poesy (written successful a dialect spoken by migrant Muslims), helium did everything to impressment the RSS brass. “He doesn’t instrumentality a idiosyncratic stand. Whatever is the enactment position, Sarma remains committed to taking it to its logical conclusion. Besides, helium is ever accessible to each subordinate and cadre of the BJP and RSS, adjacent astatine unusual hours,” says RSS person Ram Madhav, who was instrumental successful bringing Sarma to the BJP. Few are alert of the Sarma family’s long-time relation with the RSS. As a teenager, helium regularly visited RSS shakhas, portion his elder brother’s acquisition was supported by them. Unsurprisingly, close aft taking oath arsenic main minister, Sarma visited the RSS bureau successful Guwahati and held a gathering with the elder RSS leaders successful the state.
Sarma besides enjoys a ample pursuing among the non-political and non-aligned, peculiarly those who were influenced by him during his 3 presumption arsenic wide caput of the students’ national of Cotton College, Assam’s astir prestigious acquisition instauration and the alma mater of 7 earlier main ministers. These erstwhile students, who are influencers successful their respective nonrecreational arenas, person an affectional attachment to their “dada” .
Besides Assam, Sarma’s idiosyncratic relationships crossed enactment lines person been instrumental successful the BJP’s enlargement successful the Northeast. From engineering Arunachal Pradesh main curate Pema Khandu’s defection to the BJP and moving the run successful Manipur and Tripura, to stitching winning alliances successful Meghalaya and Nagaland, Sarma helped the enactment drawback powerfulness successful a portion wherever the demography was not organically suited to its Hindutva politics. Nationalist People’s Party main and Meghalaya main curate Conrad K. Sangma openly acknowledges Sarma’s relation successful his ain governmental journey. “He is an elder member to maine and has guided maine politically and personally. His quality to recognize a analyzable concern and past ever find a solution amazes me,” says Sangma.
What has besides worked successful Sarma’s favour is the party’s debacle successful West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Puducherry, which simultaneously went to polls. He shone successful contrast. Also, the nationalist outrage against the Modi government’s nonaccomplishment to expect the Covid 2nd question and its harrowing ongoing consequences made the BJP enactment wary of immoderate turmoil within. More importantly, adjacent the Congress had sent retired feelers saying it was acceptable to marque Sarma main curate if helium defected from the BJP with the required fig of MLAs. “He is simply a governmental animal. Only powerfulness matters to him. I deliberation the BJP realised this erstwhile they dumped Sonowal,” says Digvijaya Singh, 1 of Sarma’s mentors successful the Congress.
Sarma’s anointment connected May 10 has been the culmination of a four-decade-long governmental travel that helium began successful the 1980s arsenic thing of a ‘boy wonder’, taking progressive portion successful the Assam agitation against amerciable infiltrators. As a teenager, helium learnt his archetypal governmental lessons by shadowing Prafulla Mahanta and Bhrigu Phukan, 2 towering AASU leaders who aboriginal went connected to go main curate and location minister, respectively. In 1994, helium joined the Congress and made his people arsenic an capable head and electoral strategist nether the patronage of 2 main ministers—Hiteswar Saikia and Tarun Gogoi.
Now, arsenic main minister, Sarma doesn’t privation to permission immoderate country for dissent. Three Sonowal loyalists person recovered spot successful his cabinet. In contrast, conscionable 1 of the 10 MLAs who had switched with him from the Congress to BJP has been fixed a ministry. He is besides making symbolic statements—he visited Sonowal with each his furniture members connected May 12 and appointed a pistillate concern minister.
With the authorities successful the grip of a raging pandemic, Sarma doesn’t person the luxury of a honeymoon period. His contiguous precedence is to prevention lives. However, his semipermanent precedence seems to beryllium to bring successful a imperishable solution to Assam’s perennial flood problem. That’s wherefore the ministry of h2o resources has gone to his antheral Friday, Pijush Hazarika. Sarma besides has to wage attraction to the fiscal crunch the authorities faces and the party’s electoral promises—like waiving the Rs 12,000 microfinance loans taken by mediocre women successful self-help groups and providing 100,000 authorities jobs by 2022. Sarma has already formed furniture committees to instrumentality these promises. “To those disquieted astir the treasury, fto maine accidental we are successful dependable fiscal health,” Sarma says with his accustomed nonchalance.
Such bravado, however, has landed him successful occupation connected occasion. For instance, portion campaigning, helium declared that determination was nary request for masks due to the fact that determination was nary corona successful the state. It was meant to guarantee prospective voters that determination would beryllium nary restrictive measures during Bihu celebrations pursuing the election. It whitethorn person earned him governmental dividends, but the statement, coming from a wellness minister, was highly irresponsible and went viral connected societal media. “I admit Ma Saraswati takes permission of maine astatine times,” says Sarma.
Such slips whitethorn beryllium costly for the caller main minister. Given his show record, people’s expectations from him are high. There volition beryllium small borderline for error.
Meet the caller boss
Himanta Biswa Sarma, 52
Educational qualification: PhD, MA successful Political Science, LLB
Assets: Rs 17 crore
Family: Late begetter Kailash Nath Sarma was an eminent writer; parent Mrinalini Devi is the vicepresident of Asom Sahitya Sabha, the largest literate assemblage successful Assam; woman Riniki Bhuyan owns a media house; lad Nandil is preparing for law; and
daughter Sukanya is successful school.
Did you know? Sarma has authored 4 books; is the president of Badminton Association of India and regularly plays badminton to enactment fit.
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