Responding to criticism for allegedly hosting rebel Shiv Sena MLAs at a Guwahati hotel instead of focusing on floods in Assam, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma today said he is glad that the tussle in Sena has helped highlight the flood situation in the Northeastern state.
Mr Sarma, who has repeatedly denied that he has any role in the Sena power tussle that threatens to toppled the Uddhav Thackeray goverment, told the media, "We have 200 hotels in Guwahati and all have guests. Would we remove guests stating the flood situation? BJP is supporting (rebel MLAs) in Maharashtra, I won't get involved."
Despite Mr Sarma's assertions, sightings of Assam ministers and BJP leaders at the Guwahati hotel where Sena's rebel leaders are staying suggest that the state BJP is providing logistic support to them.
"Our job is to provide security and comfortable stay to anyone who's come from outside. Tomorrow, even if Congress comes, I will extend the same welcome. I am grateful Shiv Sena came, its the reason Assam's flood was highlighted," Mr Sarma said, according to news agency ANI.
About 33 lakh people across 28 out of Assam's 35 districts have been affected by floods since April this year. 117 people have died in floods and landslides since April this year. About 80 per cent of Silchar, the state's second largest city, is submerged as people struggle for food and water supply.
The dismal flood situation has prompted residents to question the priorities of the BJP-led state government.
"Assam is drowning and ministers are being brought here from Maharashtra and being kept in a five-star hotel for horse trading? Is this what the Assam government is?" a resident asked.
Another said Chief Minister Sarma must visit the submerged areas where people are stuck inside their homes.
"We want the chief minister to come here and assess the situation. There are so many people who are trapped here because of the floods. He needs to help them right now. People are not being able to leave their homes," the resident said.
In Guwahati, opposition parties led by the Congress staged a protest against the BJP-led government. They demanded that the Maharashtra MLAs be sent back and the government focus on managing the floods.