The departure of Himanta Biswa Sarma to the saffron camp has given a massive jolt to the Congress in Assam, but surely this has been a political development in the making for the last couple of years. The bruising battle with Tarun Gogoi had left the former Congress strongman with no other altertive. There were some speculations lately whether he would form a separate political party or form a new regiol front with AGP and like-minded forces. But even Sarma’s worst detractors will admit that he is a peerless exponent of power politics. After the Modi tsumi in the Lok Sabha elections last year, it soon became clear that Sarma was beginning to chart a more profitable political course. Leveraging his background in AASU politics, he had once found a political mentor in Hiteswar Saikia to grow into an influential Congress leader. He then positioned himself close to Tarun Gogoi and go on to become a powerful minister at a young age. So will Sarma’s entry into the BJP trigger a seismic change in the State’s politics? Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi seemed very different from his truculent self on Monday, speaking of Sarma as his ‘blue-eyed boy’ whom he once trusted implicitly and vested with responsibilities.
Of the three successive Congress wins in Assam since 2001, the ones in 2006 and 2011 are widely acknowledged to have come about primarily due to Himanta Biswa Sarma’s strategising and campaigning skills. But the seven Lok Sabha seats won by the BJP in 2014 against all expectations may also have owed something to Sarma’s dissident politics. Election of Congress candidates for the Rajya Sabha have demonstrated Sarma’s networking skills and astute manipulation of opponents’ weaknesses. His grip over tribal politics is well known. The BJP’s tiol leadership is likely to exploit his undoubted skills in the 2016 Assembly elections with telling effect. The alarm bells have clearly begun to ring for Tarun Gogoi, APCC president Anjan Dutta and other heavyweight Congress leaders in the State. If they are forced to retreat to safeguard their constituencies, the BJP is likely to seize an early advantage. After Sarma’s crossover, several other Congress MLAs in his camp are gearing up to follow suit. So how will the Congress leadership mage this looming split? Notwithstanding Rahul Gandhi’s new-found aggression, can the Congress high command keep its flock together in Assam through remote control? Whatever be the dissatisfaction within the BJP over Sarma’s induction, it is clear that it has forced the Congress on the defensive.
Bolt shows the way
There is something utterly primal about a 100 metre sprint in an olympic or world championship fil. One does not have to be an athletics freak or sports lover to tune it to this blue riband event. The fastest man in the world is somebody anyone can marvel at and take to heart. Does it have something to do with a very distant past, when our hunter ancestors had to run down prey, or show a clean pair of heels to outrun a swift predator? As the fastest times over 100 metres and 200 metres kept coming down over the years, there has been much speculation as to how long it will take to reach a top speed limit. But there has been a lot of dismay at all-too-frequent reports of drug cheats beating the system. Taking performance enhancing drugs in their formative years on the track, many dishonest athletes developed a strong physical and technical base which gave them that extra edge. And when after winning medals and achieving worldwide fame, they were caught for doping — there was a way out. They could co-operate with anti-doping authorities and reveal everything, thereby getting their punishments reduced. After serving reduced ban periods, they would be allowed back on the tracks, all sins forgiven.
Of the fast men who lined up on the starting blocks in the world athletics 100 metre fil at Beijing on Sunday, fully half had served drug bans. Suspended twice for doping, 2004 olympic champion Justin Gatlin had been consistently delivering very fast times over 27 undefeated races in the past two years. Tyson Gay, Asafa Powell and Mike Rodgers too were coming back after doping bans. So when Usain Bolt maged to get a comparatively fast start and beat Gatlin to the gold by one-hundredth of a second, it is now being celebrated as the ‘victory of good over evil on the track’. Even newly elected IAAF president and former champion runner Sebastian Coe has publicly expressed relief at Bolt’s stunning finish in 9.79 seconds. Holder of unbelievable world records of 9.58 seconds in 100 metres and 19.19 seconds in 200 metres, as well as a record haul of sprint golds in olympics and world championships, Bolt has never once tested positive in a drug test. Rampant doping in athletics saddens him, and he has said he cannot keep on winning to ‘save the sport’ all by himself, that it is the responsibility of all athletes. A true phenomenon who has fought injuries to magically keep pushing limits, Bolt may hang up his boots after Rio Olympics next year. The athletics world will have to painfully prepare for a post-’Lightning Bolt’ age, so that cynical offenders do not take the joy out of running faster than the wind.