No orchids for HBS

Monday, 18 January 2021



No orchids for HBS

Swapnil Bharali | June 01, 2019 13:30 hrs

Hard work, in most cases, attracts rewards. Somehow, with the announcement of the names of Prime Minister Modi’s new cabinet and extended ministry and thereafter the allocation of portfolios, the lone minister from Assam (Rameswar Teli, Minister of State in the Ministry of Food Processing Industries) who also happens to be just the other minister from the entire northeast have somehow left behind a sense of indignation. Yes, today I feel for Himanta Biswa Sarma (fondly HBS) and truly contend that the northeast, if not just Assam, should have been better rewarded purely because of the hard work that the HBS-led team did towards the comprehensive and sweeping victory of the NDA in this part of the country. 

Politicians have ambitions and there is nothing wrong in that. This has been amply reiterated by Amit Shah’s elevation from party president to union home minister in the new Modi cabinet. The elevation may also be construed as a reward for his hard work over the last several years in taking BJP to the unassailable position that it finds itself in today. But when it comes to the northeast of India over the last four years and West Bengal in the 2019 elections, Shah would not have tasted this success without the HBS magic. 

I recall HBS’s late night tweet from West Bengal where he was virtually ambushed by TMC workers while on the election trail for the BJP. I recall his regular visits to Tripura in his single-handed effort to topple the 25-year-old Manik Sarkar government. I recall the large number of negotiations with the various state governments of the northeast to cobble up the NEDA alliance for the NDA. And I also recall his energetic dance moves on the campaign trail - all of which whipped up a frenzy of support. It was tenacious and unpretentious hard work over just the four years that he has been with the BJP which has left all opposition including the Congress Party in tatters today. 

But, there are no orchids today for Himanta Biswa Sarma or his state of Assam or the region of which he is the Convenor for his party. Just two ministers in 2014 being Kiren Rijiju and Sarbananda Sonowal (only to be replaced by Rajen Gohain when Sonowal became the chief minister) and two ministers again this time - no change whatsoever. But what has changed in favour of the BJP with HBS’s work is palpable. From 7 LS seats in Assam in 2014 to 9 today for the BJP and 10 in the northeast in 2014 for the NDA to 18 in 2019, cracking the TMC in Bengal and reducing it by 18 seats, HBS has done the unexpected despite the Citizenship Amendment Bill pressure on him which had brought about immense dislike for him to the point where he was termed as a traitor. So the reasonable expectation of his supporters was at least a Lok Sabha ticket for him from Tezpur or perhaps subsequently the Rajya Sabha seat which went to Kamakhya Prasad Tasa. A reasonable expectation of his supporters was a ministerial berth in the Modi 2.0 cabinet. After all, as a minister he has been proving his mettle for the last 25 years and his contributions towards Assam from the Centre could have been unparalleled. 
And yet today, despite all his dedication and commitment towards his work, he continues to be the finance and health minister in the government of Assam while his potential at national level politics remains untested in an environment like this. Beyond this, the lone MoS in a virtually irreverent ministry, does not justify the political giant that Himanta Biswa Sarma is nor does the move give due respect and gratitude towards his work.

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