Himanta to take over as chief minister of Assam
Himanta Biswa Sarma, the erstwhile Congress satrap who helped the BJP achieve critical mass in the Northeast and who insisted there was no need to wear a mask in his state on April 4 when the second Covid wave was engulfing the country, will take over as chief minister of Assam on Monday.
Sarma, 52, replaces Sarbananda Sonowal who helmed the BJP-led government in Assam when the state went to the polls and re-elected the party. The BJP and its allies won 75 of the 126 seats in the Assembly.
The BJP, which has taken seven days to arrive at the decision to elevate Sarma, has ensured a smooth transition with Sonowal proposing his successor’s name as the legislature party leader in the presence of four central leaders at a meeting in the Assembly on Sunday afternoon.
The elevation of Sarma, who is already the BJP’s most influential leader in the region, fulfils a goal he had relentlessly pursued since his days in the ruling Congress, which he left in 2015 to join his current party.
Sarma had drawn widespread attention on April 4 when he told a portal: “There is no need to wear (a) mask now... in the context of Assam, Covid aaj ka din main nahin hain (there is no Covid today).… I have told the people this is interim relief. If there is Covid, I will inform you and you will have to wear (a) mask or you will have to pay Rs 500 in fine(s).”
The day he gave the interview, Assam had recorded 69 cases and two deaths, taking the number of active cases to 617 in the state. The overall death count in the state on that day stood at 1,109.
On May 8, the active cases in Assam stood at 36,799 with 5,756 cases and 50 deaths reported during the day. The overall death toll was 1,628.
BJP insiders said Sarma had been rewarded for his performance and organisational skills. They cited his role in the party’s re-election and its growth in the Northeast. The BJP or its allies enjoy power in all the seven Northeast states.
Sources said Union home minister Amit Shah had backed Sarma to the hilt.
The Opposition Congress and the AIUDF have congratulated the chief minister-designate.