BJP brings back Sonowal

Ten-member election magement committee announced

Our Bureau

New Delhi/ Guwahati, Nov 21: On the back-foot after the Bihar election debacle, the BJP today effected a significant rejig of its Assam unit, reinstating Sarbanda Sonowal as the president, while dropping broad hints that the former AASU leader could be the party's chief ministerial candidate.

Ousted president Siddhartha Bhattacharya, against whom the BJP leadership had reportedly received complaints of arrogance and high-handed behavior, has been appointed the party's tiol spokesperson for the Northeast.

The tenure of Bhattacharya, who was appointed State president following elevation of Sonowal as a union minister, had ended on October 30.

Bhattacharya, however, appeared unfazed at the decision, claiming credit for the party's upswing in the State. "I was successful in tearing apart the Congress and roping in Himanta Biswa Sarma," he said.

Sonowal, an MP from Lakhimpur, successfully led the party to a stunning performance in last year's Lok Sabha elections, with the BJP winning seven seats against all expectations.

Sources said the RSS played a crucial role in the rejig, especially in bringing back Sonowal. Party sources said that Sonowal is unlikely to contest the assembly elections. But in the event of a BJP victory, Sonowal will, in all likelihood, be projected as the Chief Ministerial candidate. "He will contest a by-poll later," party sources said.

Sonowal has also been given charge as the chairman of the 10-member election magement committee.

MPs Ramen Deka and Rajen Gohain along with Siddhartha Bhattacharya have been med as the vice-chairpersons of the committee.

Interestingly, Amit Shah has also appointed former Congressman Himanta Biswa Sharma as the convener of the election magement committee.

The other members of the election magement committee include Bijoya Chakraborty, Kamakhya Prasad Tasha, Rajdeep Ray, Vijay Gupta and Mohd. Awal, senior party leader and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar announced in New Delhi.

Elections in Assam are due in April next year.

The BJP had appeared invincible after its landslide victory in the 2014 general elections, followed by victories in Maharashtra, Harya, Jharkhand and formation of a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir in the same year.

But in 2015, the BJP lost Delhi to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), and then Bihar to the Nitish Kumar-led grand alliance, both defeats causing major setbacks to the party.

"We could not win in Delhi and Bihar in 2015, there are different reasons. From 2016, we will be on the victory track again and it will begin from Assam. Assam is ready for change," Javadekar said after making the announcement.

He also said BJP president Amit Shah will go to Dibrugarh on November 27 to attend a party meeting.

Sonowal was earlier the AASU president as well as an AGP leader before he shifted his political allegiance to the BJP.

In his reaction, Sonowal said it was the "wish of the people" and the party went by it. "I thank the party workers. We will have to work as a family and take along every community of the State," he said.

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