Himanta Biswa Sarma, the BJP's main strategist in the northeast who stitched up the brand-new coalition in Meghalaya, took a sharp dig at the Congress and its chief Rahul Gandhi for what he called was their immature handling of the job at hand. The Congress, which emerged as the largest party in Saturday's election results, had flown in its four senior leaders to form the government but there was little that they could do.
- The BJP accused the Congress of "not having any contact at ground level"
- Sending Congress leaders to Meghalaya was humiliating, said Himant Sarma
- Mr Sarma also targeted Rahul Gandhi for "immature handling of the job"
Mr Sarma appeared to suggest that the Congress leaders should have known the ground realities before putting its senior leaders through, what he called, was clearly a humiliation.
"I think they have faltered in their judgment," Mr Sarma told NDTV.
"If you don't have any contact at the ground level, or if you are not aware of the political complexity or if you are not aware of what kind of pre-poll, post-poll alliance has played off in Meghalaya, then why are you sending such senior leaders," the BJP strategist, also Assam's Finance Minister, told NDTV.
Mr Sarma has been roundly critical of Rahul Gandhi's approach to running the Congress ever since he quit the party to join the BJP in 2015. Mr Sarma had then famously complained that when he met Mr Gandhi in Delhi to discuss the state of affairs in Assam, he appeared to focus more on playing with his dog than their discussion.
Mr Sarma said he had expected things to have changed since then. "I don't (still) see maturity in him," he said.
Mr Sarma said the Congress leaders "should have done some basic calculation" before dispatching its senior leaders: Ahmed Patel, Kamal Nath, CP Joshi and Mukul Wasnik.
"This is a humiliation for them," he said.
Senior Congress leaders had yesterday staked claim to form the next government by virtue of being the largest party. But it didn't get far because other regional players who played kingmaker in the hung assembly such as the United Democratic Party's Dr Donkupar Roy had already been tilting towards the NPP-led alliance.
Once the UDP made the announcement, it was Meghalaya's outgoing Chief Minister Mukul Sangma who was sent to meet Dr Roy to persuade him to change his mind. Dr Roy later told NDTV that he declined the Congress offer because he had doubts about the party's ability to hold its flock together.
Congress leaders who had put up a brave face till the end, insisting that they expected to have the numbers on their side, later alleged that a cash-rich BJP had bought support of the smaller parties to keep the Congress out.
Mr Sarma rejected the charge, reprimanding the Congress for comparing leaders in the northeastern region "to potato in the market". "That you can give inducement, you can purchase them, you can sell. Not fair," he said.
But the BJP leader added that the Congress probably had come to the market something and because "they could not get those potatoes... That is why they are angry. But we people of northeast are not like that".
Meghalaya Chief Minister-designate Conrad Sangma separately also told NDTV that it was natural that the regional parties would stand together against the Congress.
"There was a large anti-incumbency in the last government. Most of the political parties that were fighting the elections, fought this election with the incumbent government. So therefore we saw all the political parties that were against the government come together. So it was natural. I think it was anti-incumbency which went against them," he told NDTV.