BY Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, August 24: A day after announcing his decision to join the BJP, former Congress minister Himanta Biswa Sarma trained his guns at Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, saying he gave precedence to "blue-blooded" members for which "merit was not an issue in the party."
Claiming that he had been humiliated and sidelined in the Congress since the last thirteen months, Sarma said there was no "interl democracy" in the party where there is no place for people from "poor background".
Sarma, however, did not make a direct attack on Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi who was a "father-like figure" for him who "for reasons unknown, changed drastically after the 2011 elections". Sarma hinted that the three-time Chief Minister was being indulged and pampered to his detriment by Rahul Gandhi.
"There are problems in some policies of Rahul Gandhi. He has a soft corner for blue-blooded people. There is no place for the poor. Merit in not an issue in the party. There is no interl democracy within," Sarma told in an interview to a television channel.
Citing an instance, he said, "When Mallikarjun Kharge paraded all the Congress MLAs in Guwahati asking whom they preferred - me or Tarun Gogoi, 52 MLAs spoke in favour of me. The report was given to Rahul Gandhi. But Rahul Gandhi said changing a Chief Minister is his priority."
Sarma claimed that he had several "unpleasant meetings" and arguments with Rahul Gandhi. "Even if a decision is taken by the entire Congress Working Committee, it can be changed by Rahul Gandhi," he said.
On Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, Sarma said, "Everything was OK till 2011, after which there was a dramatic change in Gogoi. He became arrogant, started picking up fights with the media, making random announcements and mocking at people. I don't know what happened to him. Suddenly I became his target." "What have I not done for the Chief Minister? In 2006, I convinced Hagrama Mohilary to tell the Congress high command that the BPF would support the Congress in Assam only if Tarun Gogoi is made the CM. I was used in all sorts of dirty works - like garnering votes during Rajya Sabha elections…," the Jalukbari MLA said
When pointed out that Gogoi described him as his blue-eyed boy, Sarma said, "But what did I get for being his blue-eyed boy? I was made a minister - eighteen others were also made. I was given the worst departments like education."
On allegations that he is a political opportunist, Sarma said, "How can you call me an opportunist? In the Congress I had a ministry. Now, I don't know my future…It is dark and uncertain. I have set sail and I do not know where the winds will take me"
The Jalukbari MLA also predicted that the BJP is set to win the next assembly elections in the State with maximum number of seats, while the Congress and BPF will contest for the third position behind AIUDF.
The former minister also refrained from targeting the ministers known to be close to Gogoi, saying they "they do not even figure in the count. You will see that in the next elections."
He also did not target Sonia Gandhi, saying instead that a lot of good work was done in the country under her leadership.
Sarma will formally join the BJP on August 28 at a function in Guwahati.
Ten to fourteen Congress MLAs are likely to follow suit, though Sarma said a lot will depend on the "policy and strategy of the BJP".