One conclusion that can be drawn from former Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma&’s deciding to join the BJP is that he too has a fascination for power. Once the blue-eyed boy of three-time chief minister Tarun Gogoi, Sarma&’s unflinching faith in the Congress began to wane when he realised he would never be in charge of state politics were he to stay because Gogoi had already sealed his fate by grooming his own son, Gaurav, for succession. As minister for planning and education, Sarma earned quite a reputation by bringing about qualitative changes in these fields and, after resigning his ministerial post last year, he sided with the dissident group clamouring for change in the state leadership – something Rahul Gandhi did not approve of. Given the fact that Congress leaders in Delhi have admitted Sarma&’s departure “as a big blow”, what with assembly elections just a few months away, Gogoi&’s comment that Sarma&’s exit was of “little significance” comes across as pathetic. The Delhi leaders also acknowledged Sarma&’s contributions towards the Congress victory in the “tough” 2011 election.
Politically, Sarma suits the BJP. The saffron party has willing cadres and popularity that owes much to Narendra Modi&’s charisma, but the state unit lacks a pan-Assam mass. Sarma can fill this void. Bent on emerging as the ruling party after next year&’s election, the party needs someone like Sarma, so his defection is a win-win deal. Nurtured by the late Hiteswar Saikia, the lawyer-turned-politician became a legislator at the age of 33 in 2001 from the prestigious Jalukbari constituency and enjoyed direct access to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Sarma, however, lacks political ethics. He once managed cross-voting by four BJP legislators and is alleged to have been involved in the Louis Berger (consultant for the Guwahati water supply scheme) scam while holding the portfolio of the Guwahati Development Department. Last year, the CBI questioned him in connection with the infamous Saradha scam. However, all this does not seem to perturb the BJP&’s conscience in its bid to oust the Congress from its safest state.