Guwahati: Former Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is set to join the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP). Speculations are going around of many Congress legislators shifting allegiance, 15 of which reached the airport to recieve Sarma.
Sarma arrived here from New Delhi and headed to the BJP headquarters in Guwahati amid a rally of his supporters from different parts of the state. Some BJP leaders were also on the scene.
He had on August 23 met BJP president Amit Shah in New Delhi and expressed his willingness to join the party. He is likely to do that on Friday.
At least 15 Congress legislators, who were part of the dissident group of Assam Congress led by Sarma, were at the airport to welcome him.
“I am still a Congress legislator. However, I have worked with Sarma for a long time. I am here to wish him best of luck,” said Nalbari legislator Jayanta Malla Baruah.
Asked if he too will join the BJP, he said: “It all depends on the circumstance. As of now I am a Congress legislator but I have trust in the leadership of Sarma.
“And I have a desire to work with Sarma for the betterment and progress of Assam.”
Another Congress legislator, Binanda Saika, said: “I have not decided to join the BJP yet but we have worked very closely with Sarma, particularly in the last two years.”
Sarma, who had the portfolios of health and education in Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi’s cabinet during the three consecutive terms of Congress, had led the dissidence in the party in 2011. He resigned from the Gogoi cabinet last year.
In order to regain dominance in the country, the Congress is mulling using the tribal card. This plan of action is to be first implemented in Chhattisgarh.
Riding on the success of the Assembly and urban body elections, the Congress feels that it can increase it base through tribals as they constitute 8 per cent of the total population.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the first three Assembly elections in the state, after its formation in 2000, recorded huge victories and came to power. But after the Assembly elections held last year, the scenario changed. After registering a victory in the Assembly elections and then in the urban body polls, the Congress showed that it still dominates the tribal areas.
The Congress gave the responsibility of the tribal areas to the tribal leader of Madhya Pradesh Umang Singhar which eventually helped the party. Now, the party is planning to spread out nationwide through Chhattisgarh.
Former party president Rahul Gandhi, while inaugurating the National Tribal Dance Festival in Raipur, gave a message to the tribals who are here to participate in the festival that the Chhattisgarh government is working for all the sections and this is the reason why there has been a downward trend in naxal attacks and the state economy has also improved.
The Congress is planning to publicise the improvements in Chhattisgarh throughout the country because the tribal population in the state is 32 per cent.
BJP media panellist Sandeep Sharma, however, claims that the party’s base has not shrunk. He said till Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were not divided, the Congress was strong in the area but in the elections held after three years of the bifurcation, the BJP won the Assembly elections and was in power for 15 years. Though we faced defeat in the 2018 elections, the only reason was that people wanted a change but they were not angry with the BJP, he claimed.
The BJP won in the Lok Sabha elections and the margin in the urban body elections was also not much. So, it would be inappropriate to say that the BJP’s base has shrunk, he said adding that in one year the Congress’ base has declined by 9 per cent whereas in Assembly elections it got 12 per cent more votes and in urban body elections the margin was 3 per cent.
Analysing the political landscape of the state, political analyst Rudra Awasthi said, “When it was Madhya Pradesh then the Congress had stronghold in Chhattisgarh. Several big leaders were also from the state but after the formation of Chhattisgarh since Ajit Jogi was accused of being a fake tribal the Congress lost its stronghold over the tribals. Though it continued to dominate in some of the areas which helped it in regaining the power.
“As of now, the Congress has started including the tribals with the backward class. First Bhupesh Baghel was the state chief of the party and he was replaced by Mohan Markam as he became the Chief Minister. During the Assembly elections, the Congress talked about the identity of the tribals which helped the party. After winning the elections, the decisions of the Congress government were in favour of the tribals which helped the party in the urban body elections,” said Awasthi.
The Congress is mulling over spreading its message to the tribals across the country through the three-day festival going on here. For this several senior leaders of the party will attend the festival and share the government’s schemes while giving the message that the Congress government in the state has brought a positive and a significant change in the lives of the tribals. (IANS)