Himanta Biswa Sarma: BJP's Machiavelli for the North East

It was March 2010. The UPA had just returned to power. The Congress wanted to shore up as many Rajya Sabha seats as possible. Two in Assam were up for grabs, but the numbers did not add up. That was the time when Ahmed Patel had Amit Shah-isque awe. A call was made to a senior leader in Assam Congress; the recipient said the job would be done. On the appointed day, amid high drama, four BJP MLAs entered the Assembly complex in a car driven by one Himanta Biswa Sarma and the Opposition knew the game was up.

Congress candidates Nazneen Faruque and Silvius Condpan won the poll by securing 43 and 42 votes, respectively, while Jayanta Baruah, the candidate of the combined Opposition, could manage only 40 votes. In the evening, the then BJP general secretary Ravi Shankar Prasad told the media , "I don't have the slightest hesitation to say that in a state (Assam), which has elected Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to the Rajya Sabha, democracy has been murdered by the Congress party, its leaders, chief minister and ministers."

The man behind the entire engineering is today the BJP's weapon for the North East, the man who has promised to win at least 19 of the 24 seats for the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Himanta Biswa Sarma joined the BJP in August 2015, but he is already the face of the party for the entire North East and the convener of the North East Democratic Alliance, the BJP-led alliance of non-Congress parties of the North East. He is widely credited with the party's victory in Assam and Manipur elections.

On the day the BJP staked claim to form the government in Manipur, Himanta was trending on Twitter. In spite of winning just 21 seats as opposed to Congress's 28, the party managed to cobble together a majority. The same skills which Himanta had mastered for the Congress were now put to perfect use against them. He not only managed to get the support of almost all non-Congress candidates, but also managed to get a Congress MLA to switch sides. But ask him about this horse-trading and he says it's friendship. Speaking to News18, Himanta Biswa Sarma says he is in regular touch with most of the 27 MLAs the Congress has in Manipur, hinting probably at the fact that some more could defect to the BJP in the near future.

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