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.
There have been lots of discussions among the political circles that JDU led by Bihar Chief
Minister Nitish Kumar is upset with the BJP and trying to send signals to erst allies — RJD and the Congress. This led to speculations that Nitish may once again join the Grand Alliance (GA) leaving the NDA camp. Already, RJD’s new commander Tejasvi Yadav has clearly stated that Nitish led JDU will not be welcomed in the GA. Despite all the odds, if (suppose) GA partners accommodate Nitish, he wouldn’t be the driving force of the alliance as in 2015. Also, Nitish cannot afford to go alone like in 2014 when his party fetched only 2 seats!
Then which is the correct way for JDU? It is to go with the BJP in the upcoming 2019 polls.
JDU’s advantage in this case is the present situation of the BJP. Currently, the saffron party is not in a strong position as the party would be facing anti-incumbency from a strong RJD led alliance in the state. BJP’s traditional voters are the upper castes who account for 17% of the electorate. This votebank is not enough for the party to help to win elections. The main opposition party — RJD still commands over a larger votebank than BJP. RJD is still a dominant force among the Yadavs and the Muslims who account for 31% of the population. It means BJP has to minus the 31% votes and rely on the rest — 69%. Out of these, 16% are the Mahadalits — a large portion of whom generally hail Nitish Kumar as their leader. Also, there are Kurmis, an OBC group consisting of 4% votes — considered as the supporters of JDU. Nitish Kumar himself is also a Kurmi.
JDU knows that this 15-16% votes is not enough to help the party and for the BJP too, only the 17% votes of upper castes are not sufficient. However, if these votebanks are joined together they form around 31-32%. Plus, to gain the extra votes, both the parties have the option to rely on the personal charisma of Nitish Kumar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. However, there is a power tussle between the two allies to get a respectable share of seats.
This power tussle is because of a strong BJP which earlier used to be a junior ally. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections changed the political scenario of the state where BJP emerged as the largest party in terms of vote share and seats. JDU knows the reality of a new emerging BJP, though it is pushing hard to gain a respectable share of seats for the Lok Sabha elections. Instead, Nitish Kumar has another option — giving the bigger chunk to the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections and the latter playing the junior partner for the 2020 assembly elections if held timely. Given the current situation in the country, in a crucial state like Bihar, BJP can hardly reject JDU as the later still commands over 15-16% votes — a very crucial votebank for winning maximum seats in the 2019 polls. Importance of JDU can also be explained by BJP president Amit Shah’s visit to Patna to have breakfast and dinner with Nitish Kumar. Though in politics there are no permanent friends or foes, so any perfect prediction is impossible. But given the current situation, JDU and BJP parting their ways seems unlikely as both the parties are in need of each other as already highlighted by Amit Shah that the two allies would fight the Lok Sabha elections together. Smiling face of Nitish Kumar was also an indication that the meetings with Amit Shah were fine.