Denying firebrand leader Himanta Biswa Sarma a Lok Sabha ticket is not the only surprise to be pulled by the BJP in Assam this election season. The party, which is eyeing maximum gain from the state in the upcoming polls, has dropped five of its seven sitting parliamentarians in an attempt to counter anti-incumbency.
The BJP dropped Bijoya Chakravarty, a veteran party leader and former Union minister, from the prestigious Guwahati constituency and instead gave the ticket to woman party leader Queen Ojha. Mrs Chakravarty was a three-time parliamentarian from Guwahati.
The party also dropped two-time parliamentarian Ramen Deka from Mangoldoi constituency in favour of Dilip Saikia, a new face.
Union Minister of State for Railways and veteran party leader Rajen Gohain - who is facing a court case on molestation charges - has been dropped from Nagaon constituency. Rupak Sarmah, a first-time legislator from the same constituency, will contest in his place. Gohain has won from Nagaon four times since 1999.
The BJP also dropped Kamakhya Prasad Tassa, sitting Jorhat parliamentarian and a firebrand BJP leader from the tea tribes, and gave the ticket to state cabinet minister Tapan Gogoi.
Tezpur constituency went to Pallab Lochan Das, Assam Minister and a youth leader from the tea tribes. The seat had recently witnessed much political activity, after sitting parliamentarian RP Sarmah quit over reports of the Tezpur ticket being given to Himanta Biswa Sarma.
However, the BJP has retained two sitting parliamentarians: Pradan Baruah from Lakhimpur and Rameshwar Teli from Dibrugarh.
Party insiders said that the five sitting MPs were dropped after taking anti-incumbency and winnability factors into consideration. Most of the new faces who have been given party tickets are known to be close to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, they added.