At one time, Himanta Biswa Sarma was the Health Minister in the Sarbananda Sonowal-led government in Assam. Along with that Sarma was also leading the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA) with regional parties of the Northeast – a constituent of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre.
The BJP was then trying hard to find ways to conquer other states, notably Tripura and Meghalaya, after their thumping victory in Assam in 2016. Sarma came to know about a big leader in Tripura whose child was suffering from a complex illness. He jumped in to help that leader and arranged for the treatment of the child.
A few months later, that leader became an important player in forming the first BJP government in Tripura, ending 25 years of Left rule in that state.
In the 2018 elections in Meghalaya, the BJP and Conrad Sangma’s National People’s Party (NPP) fought separately. The BJP could not do well in that state and finally managed to win only two seats after fighting for 47 seats. But it was Sarma’s magic that allowed the BJP to enjoy power in that state with the NPP.
This time, the BJP and Conrad Sangma’s party are engaged in a fight over a number of issues, but political pundits believe that it is Himanta Biswa Sarma who will have the final word in the alliance between the two parties. He and Conrad Sangma enjoy a cordial equation that has already proven effective in partially solving the long-pending boundary dispute between Assam and Meghalaya.
In the last assembly election in Tripura, Sarma was the party in charge of the BJP for the polls. It is widely believed that the Assam Chief Minister’s strategy was extremely useful in fighting Manik Sarkar’s team in that state. Sarma is known to have been a very good negotiator in the past.
When in the Congress, he was the key manager for the party in the Rajya Sabha polls, where many leaders from the BJP, and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) switched sides overnight to vote for the Congress candidate.
Sarma’s high negotiating skills took many people by surprise in the 2017 Manipur election where the BJP was behind by eight seats to the Congress in the poll result but dramatically formed the government in that hilly state. Though Congress was very critical of this development, it was Sarma’s canny moves that helped the BJP to capture power in Manipur.
Apart from allies, the Assam Chief Minister enjoys excellent relations with people in the Opposition too. He has a charismatic ability to convince leaders to fall in line with him. In the last Lok Sabha election, Conrad Sangma’s party, the NPP, fielded Muslim candidates in a few seats in Assam where the BJP was eyeing a divide in the minority votes.
On that seat, the AIUDF did not field any candidate and the fight looked tough for the Bharatiya Janata Party. It was no surprise that Sarma convinced the Meghalaya Chief Minister to put up candidates in the election even though the NPP was an ally of the BJP.
Himanta Biswa Sarma’s image has only become taller in the last few years. He is now a very powerful leader of his party with a promising national presence. The BJP will rely on him for a win in Tripura and to retain power as an ally in Meghalaya and Nagaland.
In a private conversation, a frontline Trinamool Congress leader accepted that their party’s top leadership has cautioned everybody not to attack Sarma much in the election campaign. They anticipate that it is the Assam Chief Minister who will become a deciding factor in the upcoming state polls in the northeast. IANS