Congress fails to find replacement of Sarma in North East

Hardeep Singh Bedi

New Delhi, April 18: The polling in five parliamentary constituencies of Assam is going on in the second phase general elections, 2019. The Election Commission has deferred polling in the Tripura East parliamentary constituency from April 18 to 23 due to the law and order situation.

The voters in Assam will choose their representatives in the lower house of the parliament from Karimganj, Silchar, autonomous district, Mangaldoi, and Nagaon.

All India United Democratic Front‎'s (AIUDF) Radheshyam Biswas is the current MP from Karimganj, Congress' Sushmita Dev is the MP from Silchar, Biren Singh Engti holds the seat in autonomous district, BJP's Ramen Deka is the MP from Mangaldoi and BJP's Rajen Gohain from Nagaon.

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The state used to be a stronghold of the Congress party but voted the BJP to power in the last elections.

The Congress' problems in the North East have continued, thanks to its former member Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Sarma served as MLA from the Jalukbari constituency in Assam from 2001 till 2015 on the Congress ticket. He joined BJP in August 2015. Sarma won 2016 Assembly elections and was sworn in as Cabinet Minister in Assam on May 24, 2016.

The Congress had given preference to former Assam chief minister and senior leader Tarun Gogoi over Sarma, which had forced the former to join the BJP.

Sarna had opposed paradropping of Gogoi's son- Gaurav Gogoi- in the politics, who contested from Kaliabor Lok Sabha seat in 2014 and won.

The Congress' loss is proving a gain for the BJP, which sensed the importance of Sarma and used his potential up to the maximum.

Apart from being a cabinet minister in the Assam government, Sarma has been appointed by the BJP as convener of the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), whose main objective is all-round development of the North-eastern states and their better coordination with the Centre.

At a time when the Lok Sabha elections are being conducted in the country then the Congress is realising that letting Sarma go is proving costly for the party.

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The North East has eight states- Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, and Tripura- and 25 Lok Sabha seats. With his political management skills, Sarma has come up as a saviour for the BJP and problematic for the Congress not only in Assam but also in Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura.

The Congress was hoping to achieve gains over the National Population Register (NPR), which is being opposed in North East, but Sarma has managed to rope in few political parties that were opposing it.

Before joining BJP, Sarma used to play the role of political manager for the Congress in North East. Now, the grand-old party has failed to find a replacement of Sarma, a fact that the Congress leaders admit in informal conversations.

The political managers of the Congress even failed to forge an alliance with Badruddin Ajmal, whose ‎ AIUDF enjoys influence among Muslims.

The Congress has fielded a candidate against Ajmal, which will divide Muslim votes.

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