Political Heartburn Adding a New Dimension to the Covid-19 Combat | Assam News
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Political Heartburn Adding a New Dimension to the Covid-19 Combat

Barasha Das | April 26, 2020 18:23 hrs

GUWAHATI: The handling of COVID-19 pandemic in Assam has won admiration and accolades from all quarters and these have been basically directed towards one man in the ruling BJP government -  health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. 

However, the political grapevine doing the rounds in Dispur suggests that a few senior cabinet ministers are feeling alienated in the entire process. Many admitted that too much air-time on media and public gaze is being taken by a single person, whereas, all are working round the clock in combating the situation in the state due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The dissatisfaction amongst senior ministers in the government became evident at transport minister Chandra Mohan Patowary’s press conference today when, while addressing the media he said, “All officials, be it health workers, police, media, administrative officials, ministers etc are working under the leadership of the Chief Minister as one, i.e. "Team Assam." It would be prudent to mention here that Patowary had to cancel his scheduled press conference on 24th April last due to an impromptu media conference called by Sarma just half an hour ahead of the timing scheduled by Patowary. Therein, Sarma spoke about everything that the transport minister was seeking to convey rendering the scheduled Patowary press conference null and void.

The point to be noted here is that health minister Sarma, who till now has been feted for his yeoman service in handling the situation arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic, found his name missing from the list of Patowary’s mentions despite the fact that the work done by Sarma has received tremendous applause from all across the country, specifically, from other northeastern states. Sarma’s 24X7 monitoring and presence in most of the strategic locations during the pandemic has set a new benchmark of deft political handling of such situations. 

Now, sources have told G Plus that the high command of BJP has sent a word of advice to Sarma recently - to lie a bit low and make space for the head of the state, Sarbananda Sonowal, to lead the pandemic battle. Interestingly, perhaps in response, the health minister has begun to unfailingly mention the CM's name in his press conferences - a factor that was conspicuously absent earlier.

Post his press conference today, Patowary alerted the media that he would be at ISBT to oversee the inter district movement hoping that his activity would be covered much the same way as Sarma's are.

Of late, CM Sonowal has also put his foot on the accelerator engaging in marathon meetings with high officials of the health department, police and the bureaucrats of the state. Despite this, sources added that the media advisor of the CM, Hrishikesh Goswami, has failed miserably to project Sonowal adequately in the combat against the COVID-19 pandemic in the state.

Moreover, questions are being raised in many political circles about Sarma’s whirlwind tours of the state using helicopters during the pandemic. 

To sum up, many political experts feel that Himanta Biswa Sarma has caught many of his detractors, both in the opposition and even in his own government, off-guard. In such a scenario, it is very natural that a few senior ministers are feeling a severe case of heartburn at being left out of the entire process.

The comparison between CM Sarbananda Sonowal and Himanta Biswa Sarma, and their working styles during the pandemic have become the talk of the town, besides the political circles. While the scale remains heavily tilted towards Sarma due to his decisive and well publicized moves, CM Sonowal seems to have played the second fiddle in the entire process and is now desperately seeking to gain a semblance of control.

It has always been surmised that there are two political camps in the ruling party and one-upmanship of one camp is sure to spark a political slugfest. And if the signals coming out of Dispur are anything to go by, the aggrieved camp might well take a step further which in all probability makes for an interesting battle between the top-guns of the ruling government just a year before the elections.

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(L) Chandra Mohan Patowary (C) Himanta Biswa Sarma (R) Sarbananda Sonowal

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