New Delhi, July 7: Sarbananda Sonowal was the first BJP Chief Minister of a northeastern state, but in a smooth change of guard he stepped aside for his former deputy, Himanta Biswa Sarma, to take over as Assam's Chief Minister after the BJP retained its majority in the May 2021 Assembly elections.
The 59-year-old former Chief Minister's elevation to the Union Cabinet on Wednesday is a reflection of his proximity to the Prime Minister and his performance as an administrator. Sonowal was projected as the chief ministerial candidate during the 2016 Assembly elections, which the BJP had won easily. Before becoming the state's chief minister, he had served as the Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports in the first Narendra Modi cabinet between 2014 and 2016. He was also briefly the Minister for Entrepreneurship and Skill Development in 2014.
A product of Assam's student movement, Sonowal led the state's oldest student body, All-Assam Students Union (AASU), from 1992 to 1999. He then joined the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and was elected as an MLA from Moran constituency. In 2004, he became a Lok Sabha member representing Dibrugarh.
Sonowal was appointed president of the BJP's Assam unit in 2012 and he continues to be a member of the party's national executive. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he was asked to lead the party's campaign in the state and he was elected as the MP from Lakhimpur in the 16th Lok Sabha.