In what can be seen as a setback to Assam cabinet minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP leadership has dropped his name from the list of probable candidates to ensure that he is free to campaign for the party across the Northeast without being restricted to any single constituency.
Party sources said the decision to drop Mr Sarma's name was taken at the highest level, considering that he is the BJP's point person for the Northeast. "As the convener of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), Himanta Biswa Sarma will monitor the election campaigning of Assam and the Northeast in its entirety. It is for this reason that we have dropped his name from the list of contesting candidates," Assam BJP chief Ranjit Kumar Dass told reporters in Guwahati today.
According to sources, Mr Sarma had initially been allotted Tezpur constituency with the consent of BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav. However, that changed when RP Sarmah - incumbent Tezpur parliamentarian and senior RSS functionary - resigned from the party for dropping him. Sources said the matter was brought to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah.
Although the BJP remained firm on Mr Sarma being the party's floor manager in the region, it was indicated that he could be brought into national politics through the Rajya Sabha after the general election was done. He was not available for comment.
Yesterday, Mr Sarma had expressed confidence that the BJP and its allies will win 19-21 of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the Northeast. The BJP's agenda for the Lok Sabha polls will be identity and development, news agency IANS quoted him as saying.
Assam's 14 constituencies will see polling in three phases on April 11, 18 and 23. Manipur and Tripura - which have two seats each - will vote in two phases on April 11 and 18, while Meghalaya (two seats), Nagaland (one), Arunachal Pradesh (two), Mizoram (one) and Sikkim (one) will go to the polls on April 11.