DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
Team Sarba created history in Indian electoral politics by taking oath of office and secrecy at a mammoth public ceremony, last witnessed in Assam three decades ago when the AGP assumed office at the end of a six-year-long mass uprising. Prime Minister rendra Modi and most of his key Cabinet colleagues were in attendance at the swearing-in, and so were chief ministers of several NDA-ruled states and a host of BJP MPs, including, of course, the party’s tiol spokespersons. Mr Modi, in fact, landed in Guwahati straight from Tehran, where he was on a visit. It was clearly a show of strength by the BJP and lending of its weight behind the government of Sarbanda Sonowal.
All things ceremonial about the BJP win in Assam is now over and the 85 per cent of the State’s 1.99 crore voters who voted to bring in the change in government would expect it to perform and deliver. Sonowal, in his speech after taking oath, has said his government would strive for a corruption-free, illegal migrant-free and pollution-free Assam. The BJP has made several specific promises in its pre-poll Vision Document. Its mascots, Prime Minister Modi and party president Amit Shah, too, have made promises, sowing seeds of hope in the minds of the people of Assam, promises that had translated into votes that gave the party a massive win. Now, the big question can they really bring in the ‘parivartan’ or change that the voters clamoured for?
Sonowal has inducted ten of his newly elected legislators as ministers, choosing from a big bunch of 86 (BJP 60, AGP 14 and BPF 12). Without a doubt, the most experienced of the lot in the Sonowal Cabinet is Himanta Biswa Sharma, who had been among Assam’s most successful ministers in the Tarun Gogoi Cabinet. Considering his experience and acumen, Himanta Biswa has been allocated key portfolios. He has since been made the convenor of the BJP’s anti-Congress front in the North-east called the North-east Democratic Alliance that is a platform of the BJP and its allies in the region. Sharma will act as the coorditor of these allies with the NDA. This is certainly an added responsibility to Himanta Biswa that has come as a recognition of his ability to stitch up alliances and draw people to his party’s fold.
Now, the question is can the Sarma-Himanta magic consolidate in the days ahead or does it have the chance of wearing out? If that happens, who is likely to be the loser? Well, to answer the second question—if the magic wears off, the loser will be the people of Assam. Sonowal is a smart man with political acumen gathered from his days as leader of the AASU, his days as an MLA and, of course, from his two-year stint as Union Minister under Modi. Therefore, if Himanta Biswa is able to perform without interference and remove the stagtion in the departments under him, Assam will benefit. The credit will go as much to Sonowal, as the Chief Minister, as to Himanta Biswa himself! The need of the hour for Team Sarba is to work as a team, compliment each other, contain persol fantasies of upstaging a colleague, draw up 100 day action plans and get down to business without a delay.
If the BJP-led government is to usher in progress and development in Assam, it has to work full steam in all the 126 Assembly constituencies. If Team Sonowal decides to go slow in those constituencies that did not elect its candidates, it would lead to disaster because the total statistics at the end of five years would reflect the lack of development in those 40 constituencies and bring down the average development figures! If the BJP can translate its ‘inclusiveness’ promise to a reality, things can work. Moreover, the ministers must realize they have a dual role to perform—they are both MLAs representing their respective constituencies and they are Ministers representing the whole of Assam. Many of the Ministers in the erstwhile Tarun Gogoi Cabinet faced the charge they acted only as MLAs of their own constituencies and as Ministers never looked as the whole of Assam as their playing field or area of responsibility. Governce is a different ball game and the BJP in Assam has until now looked at things from an Opposition’s perspective. Well, we shall wait and see how things proceed.