"I am pained at the unpleasant controversy created by people wanting to derive political mileage out of it. I tender my apology to all #cancer patients and their families who may have been hurt by this. I am also issuing this statement to clear & reiterate my stand," the minister tweeted this evening.
An accompanying press release said he had lost his lost his father, friends and relatives to the disease.
"My speech on divine justice and karmic deficiency is being quoted out of context. In their bid to trivialise and sensationalise, no one is looking at the content of my whole speech and intent," his statement read. "It was said in the context of helping poor students of government schools and as request to teachers not to neglect them. It was also a message to indicate district education officers not to harass teachers".
For nearly two days, Mr Sarma has traded barbs with critics, defending the comments he made at a function in Guwahati on Tuesday. Among the critics were his former colleagues in the Congress -- P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal. His tweet to Mr Chidambaram took a dig not only at the former Union minister but also Rahul Gandhi's pet dog Pidi, recently introduced by the Congress vice-president on Twitter.
By the way sir when did you rejoin @INCIndia ? As per as I know you were in Tamil Maanila Congress. Privileged people can indulged in any activity right from Chit Fund to Inxmedia, can switch party. After all #Pidi likes privileged people https://t.co/P7CMBIRCYQHimanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) November 23, 2017
It was Mr Sarma's second response to Mr Chidambaram. Last night, the former union minister had said, "Cancer is divine justice for sins' says Assam Minister Sharma. That is what switching parties does to a person."
Former Union Minister Kapil Sibal, too, had taken a dig at Mr Sarma. "Himanta Biswa Sarma says that cancer is divine justice for sins committed. That such a person is minister is divine injustice," his tweet read.
The 48-year-old Assam minister, who quit the Congress and joined the BJP ahead of the assembly elections in Assam, has been credited with the upturn in BJP fortunes in the north-east since.