No decision yet on Assam CM

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(With changes in 8th and 17th paras) Guwahati, May 3 (PTI) The BJP-led alliance has won the Assam assembly election but uncertainty hangs on who will be the next chief minister - Sarbananda Sonowal or Himanta Biswa Sarma even a day later as its elected MLAs huddled in two groups on Monday.

A constant flow of different sets of elected representatives was seen at the official residences of the two leaders since Monday morning after the election result was declared on Sunday night .

While some BJP leaders openly batted for Sarma, who is the convenor of BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance, most of them pushed the ball to the court of the party's central parliamentary board.

'The decision will be taken by the BJP parliamentary board. The party is sending an observer. He will talk to all stakeholders and a decision will be taken based on his report,' Assam BJP president Ranjeet Kumar Dass told reporters here.

Though the party is tight-lipped, sources in it said Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is likely to reach Guwahati on Tuesday to hammer out a consensus regarding the chief minister.

The BJP did not name anyone for the chief minister's post before the poll this time even as speculations were rife that Sarma would head the next government. In 2016 when the last assembly poll was held in Assam, Sonowal, who was then a union minister, was projected as the chief ministerial face.

BJP vice-president Baijayant Panda, who is the in- charge of Assam unit, met Sarma and Sonowal separately during the day, but did not speak to the waiting journalists.

The party's state unit organising general secretary Phanindra Nath Sarma, who is an RSS nominee, told newspersons while entering Sarma's official residence that the central parliamentary board will take a decision on the issue.

The Congress during the election campaign had mocked the BJP top leaders' oft repeated assertions on 'double- engine' government in Assam by saying that the state had two chief ministers apparently referring to rumours of Sarma and Sonowal acting as rival power centres.

A senior BJP official said on condition of anonymity that the party is unlikely to change its guard and Sonowal is likely to head the next government.

'There are many advantages in Sonowal's favour. We won on the performance of the incumbent government headed by him.

He is a tribal face and is accepted as a secular person. Also there are no allegations against him for any irregularity. So it is unlikely that there will be any change,' he said.

A divergent view was heard from Karbi Anglong Autonomous Council Chief Executive Member Tuliram Ronghang, who met Sarma during the day.

He said the MLAs from the two hill districts of Karbi Anglong and Dima Hasao want to see Sarma as the next chief minister. 'But it is up to the central leadership to decide.' A number of MLAs, mostly from the upper Assam constituencies, were seen visiting Sonowal's residence.

Sonowal has reportedly invited the elected party members in the evening for a 'congratulatory get together' and to discuss various issues.

BJP's alliance partners - the AGP and UPPL refused to be drawn into the issue and said it is for the 'big brother' to take a call on who will head the next government in Assam.

'The people of Assam have given us a chance to serve them once again. We need a dynamic and efficient leader as chief minister to fulfill the peoples' aspirations,' UPPL president Pramod Boro told reporters.

AGP MLA Keshab Mahanta, who visited Sarma along with AGP president Atul Bora, too said the chief minister will be decided by the BJP.

The BJP has won 60 seats, while AGP bagged nine and United People's Party Liberal secured six in the 126-ember house. PTI TR KK KK KK KK