Himanta resigns from MLA post

Former Congress strongman Himanta Biswa Sarma this evening resigned as an MLA, formally ending his association with the ruling Congress but with a parting shot viewed by most within and outside Congress as a frontal attack on the party leadership.

By A Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 16.09.15
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Guwahati, Sept. 15: Former Congress strongman Himanta Biswa Sarma this evening resigned as an MLA, formally ending his association with the ruling Congress but with a parting shot viewed by most within and outside Congress as a frontal attack on the party leadership.

Sarma, a three-time legislator from Jalukbari constituency, who joined the BJP on August 28, submitted a "routine" resignation letter to Speaker Pranab Gogoi at the latter's official residence here at 5pm today. But what turned heads was his three-page letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, raising issues and points (see chart) that reflected the apparent bitterness within the Congress Legislature Party because of the dissidence which unfolded in 2012, resulting in the exit of Sarma.

The letter was not only critical of the high command-driven party but also at the state leadership. Sarma had blamed the leadership for being "busy" in defaming him instead of improving governance; that they wanted to ensure that the TV channel run by his wife to be loyal to the state government rather than its viewers; that the state government would leave an empty coffer to the next government and that the government has failed to protect tribal belts and blocks from encroachment despite setting up council after council.

The response of the Assam PCC, like Sarma's letter, was equally caustic with the state unit president Anjan Dutta telling The Telegraph: "We have heard about the letter but not giving any importance to it." Prodded, he said: "We have heard it was against our leadership, Rahulji and our chief minister. Tell me who will give importance to a letter written by a betrayer, one who has destroyed the state's social fabric?"

Dutta went on to say that his party was ready for bypolls in Jalukbari and that the ruling Congress was sure to win the battle of ballots.

Sarma told reporters outside the Speaker's residence here soon after he handed over his resignation letter: "Normally a political party approaches the Speaker to disqualify any of its MLA if he or she joins another political party. The MLA concerned can also resign from the party on whose ticket he had won the election under such circumstances. I waited more than 15 days to take such a step by the Congress party against me since I joined the BJP last month. As the Congress did not take any such initiative, I decided to follow democratic procedures and thus decided to tender my resignation from the MLA's post. Since I won the election on a Congress ticket, I was a Congress MLA till I resigned."

Speaker Pranab Gogoi told The Telegraph that he would put up the resignation letter for processing before the Assembly's principal secretary P.K. Das tomorrow. "Everything should be wrapped up soon," he said when asked how much time it will take to clear the resignation process.

Das said once the Speaker issues the gazette notification, it would be sent to the Election Commission which would take the final decision on conducting byelections.

However, there is less likelihood of a bypoll which has to be held within six months because of the next year's Assembly polls in April-May. "The poll notification most probably will be out in March and chances of a back-to-back byelection and Assembly polls appear remote," a poll official said.

Appearing relaxed after tendering his resignation, Sarma said he would remain "ever grateful" to the people of Jalukbari for electing him as the MLA for three successive terms since 2001. He also apologised to the people for resigning from the MLA's post without completing a full term and said that if the BJP gives him an opportunity to contest the polls, it would be his "privilege" (to represent the constituency).

Asked about his letter to Sonia, Sarma said since he had snapped all ties with the Congress from today, he had expressed his opinion about the party. On the issue of nine other Congress MLAs joining the BJP, Sarma said so far they had expressed confidence in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership. "They will formally join the BJP after Durga Puja," Sarma said.