NEW DELHI, Aug 23 - In a big jolt to the ruling Congress party in Assam, its former State minister and sitting Jalukbari MLA Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday formally announced his decision to join the BJP.
Putting an end to months of speculation, Sarma accompanied by State BJP president Siddhartha Bhattacharya drove down to the 11 Akbar Road residence of BJP national president Amit Shah here this evening to complete the preliminary formalities. BJP general secretary in-charge for Assam, Ram Madhav and general secretary (organisation) Ram Lal also joined the meeting that lasted for about an hour.
Although the BJP has been holding behind-the-scene parleys with Sarma since the last couple of months, it was the RSS that clinched the deal and ensured that Sarma�s induction was hassle-free. The RSS�s intervention at the local level also helped the BJP State president to silence the voice of dissent within the party. It was reported that Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal�s camp was not in favour of inducting Sarma.
Sources said that Sarma has held a couple of rounds of meetings with Ram Madhav, including the one during the general secretary�s visit last month to Guwahati. Sarma had also met Amit Shah earlier on one occasion and is believed to have held preliminary discussions.
However, sources said that a setback came in the form of a booklet published by the BJP�s Parliamentary Board that levelled serious allegations against Sarma, describing him as the prime suspect in the drinking water scandal involving Louis Berger, quite unaware that the BJP�s State unit and RSS were holding secret parleys with Sarma to bring him over. The talks reportedly broke down, but later local RSS leaders re-established contact and resumed the dialogue.
Sources said that at the meeting today, Amit Shah held discussions with Sarma regarding the political scenario in Assam and the BJP�s agenda for the State before he instructed Bhattacharya and Ram Madhav to complete all formalities at the earliest.
The entire plan, kept under tight wraps, came out in the open this afternoon when Sarma posted a comment in his facebook stating that following massive calls over the past months from people across Assam and hailing from all communities, I will be formally joining the BJP for a resurgent Assam and North East under the vibrant leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi�.
Later, emerging from the meeting, Bhattacharya said that today�s meeting discussed about Sarma joining the party. The party has welcomed Sarma to come and work for the people of the State. Sarma expressed his willingness to join the BJP, even if informally, at the moment. �According to our party rules, the formal induction of Sarma into the party will take place at our Guwahati office within a few days,� he said.
Emerging from the meeting, Himanta Biswa Sarma said that after discussion, he decided to join the BJP. Our State president will complete the rest of the formalities within the next few days,� he said.
�First, the induction will take place and then issues like holding rallies would come,� he further added.
Other issues would be worked out by the State president in consultation with the Central leadership.
Replying to questions whether he has formally joined the BJP, he said that the very fact that he was present at Shah�s house explains everything. �But why I did what I did and why I have decided to join the BJP, I will explain later,� he said.
Both Bhattacharya and Sarma were evasive about the behind-the-scene deals, with the two leaders maintaining that they would reveal them in the days to come.
�For the last one year, the Congress party humiliated me so much that I alone know how I stayed in the party,� Sarma said while talking to this newspaper.
This is the reward I got after I worked so much for the party. My contributions were forgotten and even my close supporters started asking me why I was still in the party at the cost of my self-respect,� he said.
About his reasons for leaving the Congress, he attacked Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi�s leadership, saying that the Government was heading for a financial crisis and has become directionless. There is no internal democracy. The results of the last parliamentary election were an embarrassment for us.
The AICC decision not to implement the Kharge committee report was another factor, he said, adding that when he had called on Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, he got no satisfactory response in this regard.
On how many MLAs were going to join the BJP, he said that the numbers depended upon the BJP State leadership. They have to decide how many MLAs they want to bring over,� he said
Further, he said Assam needs a strong and able leader, which can be provided by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.