GUWAHATI: There's a real buzz in the Assam Secretariat as to who'll be the next CM? Top bureaucrats to lower-rung officers raise their ears to hear a response to this query with the adjunct "Any idea?" whenever a reporter enters their rooms.
The same inquisitiveness is now evident even among the general public. They are clueless as to why such a question has arisen in the run-up to the Assembly election.
However, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal himself is not at all surprised. "It's the prerogative of BJP's Parliamentary Board to decide the next Chief Minister. In the last Assembly election, our party had to project a Chief Ministerial candidate as we fought the poll as the Opposition party. This isn't my headache. You'll get the right response to this query from the party's Parliamentary Board at the appropriate time."
There's no basic difference in the response to this query from Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma as well. When asked, Sarma said, "This comes under the jurisdiction of our party's Parliamentary Board. The Board may name the Chief Minister prior to or after the poll results. It's up to them. This is none of others' business."
But State BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass was surprised when we posed this poser to him. He replied, "Barring the media, I haven't heard this question from anybody else in the party. Ours is a national party. It's the party high command that takes such decisions."
Responding to the same question, Union DoNER (Development of North Eastern Region) Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh said, "When there's Assembly poll in any BJP-ruled State, the question of projecting the Chief Ministerial candidate doesn't arise. Haryana and Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections are examples. We don't name any CM before the poll in any State that is having BJP government. This is our practice. There is no discussion on this issue as it comes directly under the Parliamentary Board of the party."
But then, what has made the bureaucrats in the State Secretariat buzz this typical question?
General reasoning suggests that the State bureaucracy has taken it for granted that the BJP with its allies is sure to retain power at Dispur. Since there has been a gossip regarding the next Chief Minister of the State, the bureaucracy might have got attuned to it (gossiping).
However, a distinction can be drawn. When late Tarun Gogoi was the Chief Minister for two consecutive terms there was no such query as to "who'll be the next CM" when he made his bid for the third term.
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