Himanta Biswa Sarma, credited with the BJP's game-changing strategy in the north east of the country, has no regrets about leaving the Congress two years ago, an exit attributed regularly to the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, who he denounced again today as a committed "dynast."
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Offering up his new political homestead for comparison, he said, "In the BJP, no one will ask you who your father is...will someone like Narendra Modi or Amit Shah ever head the Congress? Not in a 1,000 years."
Mr Sarma has famously said that when the Congress in Assam was in deep disarray, he sought a meeting with Mr Gandhi in Delhi who appeared to focus more on playing with his dog than on the crisis during their conferral than on the likelihood of the Congress losing a state it had governed uninterrupted for several years.
Frustrated, Mr Sarma switched to the BJP in 2015 and helped it win Assam in 2016, giving the party its first north eastern government. He also helped being the BJP to power in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
Mr Sarma's resentment of Mr Gandhi remains unbridled. At Berkeley recently, the 47-year-old vice president of the Congress declared that he should not be singled out for benefitting from his famous last name, claiming that "this is how India works." Mr Gandhi also said that though he is ready to take over from his mother Sonia Gandhi as the top boss of the Congress, the promotion will not take place without the backing of the party. "I didn't hear him say that the Congress will have elections in October, where is the contest there?'' he said. "He is feudalistic, a dynast and now in America he accepts it," he alleged.
He also said he fully supports the centre's decision to deport Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar because they are illegal immigrants who pose a threat to national security. The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to that policy. Northeastern leaders of the BJP, particularly in Arunachal Pradesh, say that allowing the Rohingya to remain in India will marginalize the hundreds of tribes who are already at a disadvantage.
Already our local people are the minority. The demography is changing very fast. Immigrant Muslims (from across the border in Bangladesh) are almost 30 per cent of the population, so we are very concerned that there should be no more people coming as it will change the demography further,'' said Mr Sarma, who is on a BJP committee of top leaders to strategize for the next general election in 2019.
The centre however has made it clear that it plans to confer citizenship on nearly one lakh Chakma refugees who are based mainly in Arunachal. "There is a distinction there because the Chakma are people who came before and so if they are evenly distributed across the country then that may not be a problem," he told NDTV. The Chakma are an ethnic group who began fleeing in the 1960s to northeastern India from former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, partly because they were being persecuted because they are Buddhists.