Himanta Biswa Sarma is the BJP’s first big catch in its mission to win elections in states where it started with little or no presence. What the ruling party is hoping to achieve with Suvendu Adhikari in Bengal, was a script first used with spectacular results in Assam in 2016.
When Himanta Biswa Sarma quit the Congress government of Tarun Gogoi in 2015 after a long sulk, India’s oldest party did not realise how far-reaching the impact would be.
Sarma promptly joined the BJP and went on to deliver the northeast – till then a Congress stronghold – to the ruling party.
Tarun Gogoi’s 15-year rule came to an end in 2016, and defector Himanta Sarma was a big factor.
After proving to the Congress just what it had lost, Sarma famously shaded Rahul Gandhi when he tweeted a video of his dog Pidi doing a trick.
“Sir Rahul Gandhi, who knows him better than me. Still remember you busy feeding biscuits to him while we wanted to discuss urgent Assam’s issues,” he wrote.
Sarma became convener of the North East Demoratic Alliance (NEDA), a BJP-led front of anti-Congress parties, and the rest was history. After Assam, the BJP formed its first government in Manipur in 2017 despite the party winning less seats than the Congress.
He became so big in the party that he overshadowed Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in many ways. This time, the BJP has not announced any Chief Ministerial candidate and it is believed to be because of a behind-the-scenes tussle between Sonowal and Sarma.
Sarma, believed to be angling for a bigger role in Assam, had announced that he would not contest this time. Yet he was named among the candidates for the northeastern state.
He will be the BJP candidate from Jalukbari, the seat he has won since 2001.
Born on 1 February, 1969, in Guwahati, Sarma studied in Cotton College before completing a law degree and a PhD.
He has been president of the badminton and cricket academies in the state.
As part of the All Assam Student’s Union (AASU), Sarma joined the Assam agitation against illegal migrants. AASU’s top leaders later formed the Asom Gana Parishad. Sarma rose to become one of the biggest political figures in the state.
He contested the 2001 election as a Congress candidate and was part of many governments after that. But in 2015, he revolted against Tarun Gogoi and pitched himself as the face of the Congress; the party sided with veteran Gogoi and Sarma walked out.