Himanta Biswa Sarma on Monday (May 10) noon took oath as the 15th chief minister of Assam. The state governor Jagdish Mukhi administered oath to 52-year old Sarma, who started his career as an activist of All Assam Students’ Union. He later switched over to the Congress and served as a minister for about 14 years in Tarun Gogoi’s cabinet before he quit the Congress and in August 2015 joined the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Sarma, who is also the convenor of the North-East Democratic Alliance, was preferred by the central leadership of the party over the outgoing chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal because of his trouble-shooter image not only in his home state, but in the entire Seven Sisters of the region.
When the saffron party suffered defeat in the three major states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Sarma emerged as a future hope of the party.
The former Supreme Court lawyer, who picked up quarrel with Rahul Gandhi over the issue of succession of Tarun Gogoi before parting ways from Congress, was the finance and health minister in Sonowal government.
Though Sonowal was the chief minister of Assam between 2016 and 2021, many people would call Sarma as the super CM of the state.
Incidentally, Sonowal also had an AASU background and was its president between 1992 and 1999, and later joined the parent outfit, the Asom Gana Parishad. He quit the AGP to join the BJP in 2011.
Assam-watchers are now closely watching the development in the state as Sonowal comes from the indigenous tribe––not the Tea Tribes who were brought and settled from Chotanagpur belt by the British in the second half of the 19th century. He too has considerable clout within his own and other ethnic tribes.
Sarma, on the other hand, is a Brahmin, and is admired by many upper caste middle-class Assamese.
Politics apart, Sarma would be facing a big challenge on the COVID-19 front as the guidelines were not properly followed during the election and counting on May 2. So, like elsewhere in the country the number of cases is rising.