A veritable trump card

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By RIPUNJOY DAS
  • Published 25.03.11
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He is new to the BJP but not a novice in politics; is influential but “low-profile”; has decided to stay away from the Assembly elections this year but is still being treated as the trump card.

Meet former AGP leader Sarbananda Sonowal, a package of “talent, charisma and political acumen” — whose defection to the BJP is being treated as a political bonanza that the party desperately wants to cash in on.

Though he lost to seasoned Congress leader Paban Singh Ghatowar in the last parliamentary elections, the former president of the All Assam Students Union has already brought enough to the BJP plate to be considered a fate changer.

Soon after he joined the BJP, several student leaders from various organisations followed suit and some of them have even got party tickets to fight from various constituencies across Upper Assam.

Sanjoy Kishan, former vice-president of the All Assam Tea Tribes Students Association and president of the Tinsukia district committee of AATSA, resigned from the students’ union and joined the BJP. Kishan is now contesting the polls from Tinsukia.

Dipuranjan Makrary, president of the All Assam Sonowal Kachari Students Union, who also resigned and joined the BJP, is contesting from Tingkhong constituency in Dibrugarh.

Another student leader, Pulak Gohain, the former publicity secretary of AASU, too, resigned from the union and joined the BJP brigade.

But what is keeping Sonowal from the fray?

“As far as the BJP is concerned, I am a newcomer to the party. Therefore, it won’t be ideal for me to contest the elections this time. My primary job is to first settle down and then try to mould myself with the help of my seniors,” Sonowal said.

Ever since he joined the BJP on February 8 in the presence of party president Nitin Gadkari, Sonowal has been concentrating on finding his feet.

The party, however, is brimming with hope.

“Sonowal is an asset for not only our party but also for our state. The extraordinary talent and political acumen he possesses is admirable. Therefore, we will be using him very judiciously,” Adyut Phukon, the general secretary of Dibrugarh district committee of the BJP, said.

Although the BJP will be projecting Sonowal as its candidate from Dibrugarh Lok Sabha seat, party sources said for the Assembly elections, it wants him to influence the voters, particularly in the twin districts of Dibrugarh and Tinsukia.

“At present, of the 12 constituencies in the two districts, we have only two seats. Our primary target is to increase the number to at least five or six so that these constituencies can be used as an ideal platform during the 2014 parliamentary elections,” a party leader said.

And central to this plan is Sonowal.

“We are banking on him to dent the AGP vote base in these parts and also to build bridges between our party and various ethnic communities,” Phukon said. Sonowal is said to have widespread acceptability among the ethnic communities.

The political scenario in the two districts suggests that at least three BJP candidates — Binod Hazarika (Chabua), Dipuranjan Makrary (Tingkhong) and Kamakhaya Prasad Tasa (Margherita) — are relying heavily on the Sonowal “charisma” to see them through what promises to be tough contests, especially in Margherita, where sitting MLA and minister Pradyut Bordoloi is certainly no pushover.

These are also the three constituencies where the BJP feels its candidates have a fair chance of posting victories.

The party has already lined up meetings and campaign schedules for Sonowal so that he can go ahead in a systematic manner.

Binod Hazarika, who is also the president of the party’s Dibrugarh district unit, said, “My advantage is that Sarbada hails from the constituency as he is a resident of Mulukgaon which comes under Chabua constituency. Therefore, I am definitely looking forward to Sarbada to help my poll campaign.”

Dibrugarh BJP legislator Prasanta Phukon, who is seeking a second term, however, believes that Sonowal is not a politician who can be kept waiting on the reserve benches for too long.

“You have to keep him in the Playing XI. What role you will assign him, whether that of an opener or pinch hitter, is upto the team management,” said Phukon, using an analogy from cricket, a sport he loves.