Pranjal Bhuyan

GUWAHATI, March 6: The first list of candidates for the Assam Legislative Assembly polls released by the BJP reflects the ‘influence’ of Finance Minister and NEDA convenor Himanta Biswa Sarma in the ticket allocation process, as the party has ‘accommodated’ a number of ‘Sarma loyalists’ during distribution of tickets, sources in the saffron party said.

“It is clear by now to everyone that the party relies heavily on Sarma to win elections as well as in organizational matters. His influence is clearly visible in the candidate selection process. Sarma has been able to ensure tickets to a number of aspirants considered close to him,” said a senior state BJP leader.

“Not only have Sarma loyalists been given nominations from seats where we had sitting MLAs, but his influence is also visible in the fact that we have been able to take seats like Kamalpur, Naharkatia and Barhampur, which were with the AGP. Again, aspirants preferred by Sarma have been granted tickets in those constituencies,” the leader said.

Sources said Mayur Buragohain (Nazira), Dharmeswar Konwar (Sonari), Manab Deka (Lakhimpur), Tarang Gogoi (Naharkatia), Diganta Kalita (Kamalpur), Jayanta Malla Barua (Nalbari) and Jitu Goswami (Barhampur) are some of the new nominees considered loyal to Sarma.

On the other hand, Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has been able to secure ticket for only Amiya Bhuyan (Bihpuria) among the new faces in the BJP list.

It is also noteworthy that Biswajit Daimary, who recently got re-elected to the Rajya Sabha, has been made the BJP candidate from Panery.

That has led to speculation that Sarma may be eyeing a move to Delhi to play a role in national politics post the Assembly polls.

“If Daimary wins and we manage to form the next government, then he could be accommodated in the state cabinet. Then Sarma could get elected to the Rajya Sabha seat which will be vacated by Daimary. But this is only speculative and nothing can be said with certainty at this moment,” said a source.

BJP sources admitted that the decision to field state president Ranjeet Kumar Dass from Patacharkuchi instead of Sorbhog, which he has been representing since 2011, may be used by the Opposition to target the ruling party.

“Sorbhog could have proved difficult this time due to the formation of the grand alliance. It will be a challenge to win the seat if the Muslim vote goes intact to one opposition candidate,” said a BJP leader.

Regarding sitting MLAs who have been denied re-nomination, BJP sources said the decision was taken due to adverse reports against them in internal surveys conducted by the party. Most of the incumbent legislators dropped were facing local level anti-incumbency, they added.

“However, denial of tickets in some cases could cause trouble for us. For example, party workers in Bihpuria are upset as Debananda Hazarika has been dropped. Similarly, the selection of Ajanta Neog in Golaghat has led to some dissension among old-time cadres. Our workers are also upset in Hajo, Chabua and Naoboicha as those constituencies have been left for the AGP. But we hope to pacify the disgruntled cadres,” a source said.

BJP workers staged protests at various places including Hajo, Chabua and Gauhati West after finding that the seats have been allotted to the AGP.

Senior BJP leader from Golaghat and ticket aspirant Bitupon Saikia on Friday joined the Congress after the BJP announced Ajanta Neog as the candidate from the seat. Saikia, who played a leading role in building the BJP base in Golaghat, was reportedly sidelined within the organization after Neog recently quit the Congress and joined the saffron party.