DIBRUGARH, Feb 8 – On expected lines, firebrand youth icon of the state, Sarbananda Sonowal today made a grand entry into the BJP, with none other than the party’s national president, Nitin Gadkari welcoming him by offering him the member’s admission receipt. Soon afterwards, Gadkari announced that Sonowal would be a member of the BJP national executive, the party’s state core committee and the party’s Assam state election committee, all with immediate effect.
It is rare that a new entrant to a national political party is decorated with so many posts on the very first day of his admission into the party. But for Sarbananda Sonowal, the BJP made an exception. Asked to comment on the political largesse given to Sonowal, BJP Assam unit president, Ranjit Dutta said: “When these announcements are made by our national president, it just goes to show the importance we are bestowing on Sonowal.” Along with several others, Dutta appeared a very happy man today.
The admission ceremony coincided with a hurriedly convened public rally at the Old Boys High School grounds here this morning. Despite inclement weather that cleared later in the morning, a huge crowd of about 15,000 BJP activists attended. They all cheered their leaders as they spoke. Those who spoke from the dais, as the crowd waited for Gadkari included Guwahati MP Bijoya Chakraborty, Dibrugarh MLA Prasanta Phukan, and former Arunachal MP Tapir Gao. The meeting was anchored by another youth icon of the state, BJP leader Kamakhya Prasad Tasa.
Speaking on the occasion, Gadkari said the BJP is a truly democratic party, where one can go up the hierarchy by dint of sheer hard work. He said: “I was a mere worker who plastered party posters, and as my handwriting is not good, I was also made to whitewash walls for later wall writings by artists.” He said that in the BJP, one can join as a worker and go on to become the party’s national president. “For this, one does not have to be born into any dynasty,” he quipped, even as Varun Gandhi winked.
He harped on corruption at the Centre and in “all Congress ruled states” as a major hindrance to development. He said he is amazed at the long list of scandals in Assam, and remarked that this matched well with the scandal list of the UPA coalition at the Centre. “It seems as if Delhi and Dispur are at a competition to outdo each other in scams and unheard of corruption,” he added. He said that with the joining of Sonowal in the party, the BJP has once again established its secular credentials. “Assam is the land of Srimanta Sankardev, Madhabdev and Ajaan Pir, the people of the country should take lessons in communal harmony and social tolerance from the state,” he remarked.
Gadkari said he is surprised that work on the Assam Gas Cracker Project has come to a standstill from today. When a national project, monitored by the Prime Minister’s Office can suffer as such, this only goes to prove that the UPA government at Delhi does not care about Assam.
BJP national leaders Vijai Goel and Varun Gandhi, impressed by the large public turnout at today’s rally, said this is an indication of the people of the state to vote the BJP into power in the ensuing elections. The crowd cheered loudly.
Defending his decision to join the BJP, Sonowal told the gathering that he has nothing against the AGP, but that he has reservations about the leaders of the regional party. He accused them of hobnobbing with “anti-Assam elements” and that his conscience did not permit him to remain in such a group any longer. He said that in the coming days, he will work hard for all ethnic people of the state, whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs or Christians. “All Indians should live in peace and prosper together in Assam, but we have no space for illegal foreigners,” he thundered. A huge round of applause proved that his point was taken well by the mixed group of the gathering, that included several hundred persons of the Muslim community.
In a significant statement, Sonowal said that he continues to have the “highest regards for the grassroot workers of the AGP,” all who have helped the regional party to stay afloat and often by contributing from their own personal resources, and selflessly working for the party, expecting or getting nothing in return.
Sonowal has a huge task in store for him. It depends how he takes forward his secular agenda. He said this is not too difficult. “I am taking constructive regionalism to the national mainstream, and I seek the blessings of all the people in achieving this,” he later told this newspaper.
Along with Sonowal, those who formally joined the BJP today include a senior public leader from Nazira, Syed Ayazuddin Ahmed, former AASU leaders Syed Mominul Awal and Pulok Gohain, former ATTSA (Assam Tea Tribes’ Students’ Association) leaders Sanjay Kisan and Rusik Das, former ATASU (All Tai Ahom Students’ Union) president Lakhya Konwar, and noted NGO activist from Dhubri, Parimal Kumar Das.