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BJP signals continuity in Assam, puts Mahendra Singh in charge

The party's campaign for the Lok Sabha elections will be kicked off by Narendra Modi's rally in Silchar on January 4

Our Special Correspondent Guwahati Published 28.12.18, 07:10 PM
Mahendra Singh meets Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu in Itanagar on Thursday.

Mahendra Singh meets Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu in Itanagar on Thursday. The Telegraph picture

The BJP leadership’s decision to go with “tried and tested” Mahendra Singh as prabhari (in-charge) for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls in Assam suggests that it will continue with the think-tank that won the state Assembly polls in 2016.

The BJP had unseated the Congress, which had been in power from 2001 to 2016, in alliance with the AGP and the BPF.


Mahendra Singh, an incumbent UP minister, was among the 17 in-charge of states to be appointed by party president Amit Shah on Wednesday. He is also among the few to be retained as prabhari.

BJP insiders said continuance of Singh, first appointed in November 2014 as prabhari for the Assam Assembly polls, was a welcome sign. It signalled “continuance” of the 2016 core Assembly think-tank for Assam.

The core team included, among others, Neda convener Himanta Biswa Sarma, NE zonal secretary (organisation) Ajat Jamwal, state general secretary (organisation) Phanindra Nath Sarma and chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal. Assam state president Ranjeet Kumar Dass will be a new entrant to the team, which will be “guided as always” by RSS members.

The insiders said most in the Assam unit wanted Singh to continue because he had “spent” close to two years learning about the state and its people while preparing the party for the Assembly polls. They also wanted him for his “ability” to carry along everyone.

“Moreover, Singh has remained in touch with the state and its leaders. A new prabhari would have found it difficult to connect because polls are just a few months away,” one of them said.

With 14 seats, Assam is a crucial state in a poll where every seat is going to count given the resurgence of the Congress. The BJP had won seven seats in 2014, its best showing till date.

“That the leadership did not name a new in-charge even after Singh’s appointment as a minister in UP in 2017 shows the confidence the leadership has in him. He had contributed significantly strategy-wise in the Assembly polls whether it was through the missed call membership or youth connect campaign. Sometimes continuity helps,” a senior BJP member said.

In fact, the party leadership had roped him for Gujarat, Karnataka and UP Assembly elections after the Assam polls. The others in the Assembly core team were also awarded for their contributions. Himanta went on to become the party’s key strategist for the Northeast, Sonowal the chief minister and Phanindra now looks after Tripura and Meghalaya.

Singh, when contacted, said he was “thankful” to the leadership for giving him the opportunity and was hopeful of BJP “improving” its tally with the “support” of party leaders and the people of Assam.

The BJP’s campaign in the Northeast for the general elections will be kicked off with a rally by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Silchar on January 4.

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