SAFFRON WHIFF IN THE AIR
On a wintry December Delhi night, election strategist Prashant Kishor was meeting a BJP leader from Assam. It had been just a month since he had pulled off the incredible feat of helping Lalu Prasad Yadav-Nitish Kumar script a comprehensive victory over the BJP in the Bihar assembly polls. Now he was in talks with the Congress high command and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi to bail the party out in the assembly elections due in four months.
So why was he meeting Himanta Biswa Sarma, the ex-Gogoi aide who had joined the BJP in July 2015? Married to an Assamese doctor, Kishor had an offer for Sarma, a former classmate of his wife: “Rejoin Congress and you’ll be made CM candidate.” The meeting ended with Sarma rejecting Kishor’s offer and vowing to put an end to his record and reputation.
For reasons still not clear, Kishor quit the Assam assignment, but the over 200 public meetings and rallies across the state Sarma held over the course of a month proved his point of the ex-Congress minister being the party’s biggest challenge now. In comparison, BJP CM candidate Sarbananda Sonowal has had 20 meetings outside his constituency Majuli; Gogoi, 50. And Sarma had not even begun to campaign in his own constituency Messrs Himant Sarma and Amit Shah continue their steady, concerted pitch, with AIUDF’s Badruddin Ajmal extending all the inadvertent help he can Jalukbari till April 8.
That’s the reason why BJP president Amit Shah, on receiving the news of the over 80 per cent polling in the first phase of elections on April 4—traditionally, higher turnout indicates a change—made the first call to Sarma to congratulate him on his hard work. Yet, two days later, unlike other state leaders, Sarma did not join Shah when the BJP president came to Assam for four rallies; he finished five more during the day to up the ante in lower Assam, which goes to polls on April 11.
The day Shah called, another call went from Sonia Gandhi’s office to a top Congress leader in the state seeking his view on the Congress president personally attacking Sarma in
PM MODI WITH SONOWAL AND SARMA AT KOKRAJHAR