Himanta Sarma Ahead In Assam Race, Say Sources; Key BJP Meet Today

The BJP has retained power in Assam after winning the 2021 election; the party won 60 seats in the 126-member Assembly, with allies AGP getting nine and UPPL six

Senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma arrives for a meeting in Delhi

New Delhi:

Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma met party chief JP Nadda and Home Minister Amit Shah at the former's Delhi residence on Saturday, as suspense builds over the identity of the state's new Chief Minister.

The BJP legislature party meeting will be held today and Mr Sarma is ahead in the race, sources have said.

The two Assam leaders and the BJP senior leadership held a lengthy discussion on the issue, before which Mr Nadda, Mr Shah and BJP General Secretary BL Santhosh had met each individually.

The day's first meeting was with Mr Sarma, who is the Health Minister and the BJP's troubleshooter in the northeast. That was followed by talks with Mr Sonowal, the current chief minister.

"The BJP legislature party meet may take place in Guwahati on Sunday. Answers to all questions will come out of that meeting," Mr Sarma said as he left Mr Nadda's residence.

Both Mr Sonowal and Mr Sarma were summoned for face-to-face talks to discuss the chief minister issue; the party wants to avoid factionalism as a result of its choice, sources said.

Choosing between Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Sarma will be a tough choice for the BJP.

Mr Sonowal, who belongs to Assam's indigenous Sonowal-Kachari tribe, has a good image and Mr Sarma is an influential leader, as well as the convenor of the North East Democratic Alliance.

The party did not announce a candidate ahead of the March-April polls. The party had said it would settle the issue after the election was over. In 2016 they had projected Mr Sonowal as its leader and won, forming its government in the northeast.

For the 2021 election, however, the BJP, opted against a chief ministerial candidate but still recorded a comfortable win; the party won 60 seats in the 126-member Assembly, while alliance partners AGP won nine and UPPL six.