India: Sonowal Takes Responsibility For Assam – Oped


It was a spectacular show, where a young tribal leader took the pledge to serve over 30 million people of Assam with all his sincerity and commitment.

Braving the bright afternoon sunshine of the summer season, over one hundred thousand euphoric well-wishers assembled at the venue to witness the historic moment, as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sarbananda Sonowal was sworn-in as the State chief minister on 24 May 2016.

Unlike the previous Congress government at Dispur, the swearing-in ceremony of the BJP led regime was organized at a city college playground, where many high profile dignitaries including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former deputy PM LK Adwani, BJP president Amit Shah etc were present. Assam Governor PB Acharya administered the oath of office and secrecy to eight more cabinet ministers along with two ministers of State (independent charge) belonged to BJP, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF).

Assam witnessed a similar swearing-in ceremony three decades back in the city’s Nehru stadium, when the PK Mahanta led AGP came to power defeating the Congress for the first time. The AGP leaders, then fresh student activists belonged to All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), in 1985 successfully concluded the historic Assam movement against the unabated Bangladeshi influx to the State.

History repeats as the Congress turned a loser once again to the BJP along with its allies including AGP, BPF and two ethnic parties of Tiwa and Rabha people in the State Assembly polls held in April, where the saffron brigade succeeded in winning an overwhelming majority. The BJP alone won 60 seats for bringing an end to the third-time Congress rule in the State.

A number of Union ministers including Rajnath Singh (home), Nitin Gadkari (road transport & highway), M Venkaiah Naidu (parliamentary affairs), Suresh Prabhu (railway), Jitendra Singh (DoNER), Anant Kumar, Rajibpratap Rudi, VK Singh, Nirmala Sitaraman, Ram Vilas Paswan etc, also graced the occasion to extend their goodwill to Sonowal, who was a colleague to them till recently in PM Modi’s cabinet. Over 30 Parliamentarians from different States also witnessed the ceremony.

More than ten chief ministers of national democratic alliance (NDA) ruled States like Anandiben Patel (Gujarat), Devendra Fadnavis (Maharashtra), Shivrajsingh Chauhan (Madhya Pradesh), Vasundra Raje (Rajasthan), Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh), Raghubar Das (Jharkhand), Laxmikant Parsekar (Goa), Chandrababu Naidu (Andhra Pradesh), Parkash Singh Badal (Punjab), Manohar Lal (Haryana), Pawan Kumar Chamling (Sikkim), Kalikho Pul (Arunachal Pradesh), TR Zeliang (Nagaland) with Jammu & Kashmir deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh were present.

With more to add, Assam’s outgoing chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who led his party to rule the State for three consecutive terms, former chief minister and senior AGP leader PK Mahanta, Bodoland Territorial Council head and BPF supremo Hagrama Mohilary along with BJP’s Assam-in-charge Mahendra Singh, its national general secretary Ram Madhav etc, a number of Satradhikars from different Satras (Vaishnavite monastery) were present to add colour to the occasion.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, who abandoned the Congress to join the saffron party last year and worked hard for making the BJP and its allies victorious with 86 combined seats in the 126 member State Legislative Assembly, took oath as a cabinet minister after Sonowal. He was followed by BJP leader and a former State minister in AGP ministry Chandra Mohan Patowary, former State BJP president Ranjit Dutta, party leader from Barak valley Parimal Suklabaidya, AGP president Atul Bora, senior party leader Keshab Mahanta, BPF leader and a former State minister Pramila Rani Brahma, another party leader Rihan Daimary to take oath as cabinet ministers.

BJP leaders Naba Kumar Doley and Pallab Lochan Das, both left the Congress to join the BJP following the footsteps of Sarma, were administrated oath as the minister of State (independent charge).

Addressing the huge gathering, the BJP supremo Amit Shah expressed happiness that the people of Assam had voted his party along with the AGP and BPF to power. He assured that Assam as well as the Northeast would march in the path of development in the coming days.

PM Modi began his speech in Assamese to express gratitude to the electorate and declared in pride that a son of the soil had taken the charge as the chief minister of Assam. He praised the popular student leader turned politician Sonowal as a soft spoken gentleman but committed for his mission to serve the people.

The Prime Minister also declared that his government in New Delhi believes in competitive cooperative federalism and would continue the mission for inclusive growth and development in eastern India as well. He assured that the new government at Dispur would cherish the dream of common people with all possible supports from the Centre.

The Prime Minister concluded his speech with the famous Assamese saying by Lakshminath Bezbaruah ‘Bajok Doba, Bajok Sankha, Bajok
Mridong Khol, Asom Akou Unnati Pathat, Joy Aai Asom Bol’ (let the drums beat, let the conch blow, let the mridong-khol roll, Assam again on the path of development, lets chant Joy Aai Asom) to mesmerize the audience.

Sonowal, who becomes the first BJP chief minister in the State, pointed out that Assam may be a land of diverse ethnic groups with different religious believes, but the people are united with the cultural brotherhood. Addressing the cheering crowd, the bachelor CM declared, ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christians… all will work for a peaceful and prosperous Assam’.

In his brief speech, Sonowal also mentioned about Ahom dynasty founder Chao-lung Sukapha, Ahom general Lachit Barphukan, 16th century saint-scholar-reformer Shrimanta Sankardev and his prime disciple Madhavadev, Sufi-saint Aajan Fakir, doyen of modern Assamese culture Jyotiprasad Agarwala, Bishnu Rabha, Bhupen Hazarika etc for their immense contributions to Assamese nationalism.

The 54 years old chief minister also committed to make Assam free from unabated influx (from neighbouring Bangladesh), heinous corruption and deadly pollution. Harbinger of a new era for the BJP in the far-eastern region, Sonowal continued his expectation for blessings from the people in general and Satradhikars with other religious leaders, civil societies and the media in particular to make his vision a reality.

Meanwhile, the Salesians in Assam termed the development where one of their illustrious Alumni was taking the reins of Assam as a historic moment. The Guwahati Salesian Provincial Fr VM Thomas said in a communiqué the new government under the leadership of Sonowal would create a civilization of love, peace and justice ushering in a new era of hope and development for the aspiring youths of the region.

Nava Thakuria

Nava Thakuria is a Guwahati (Assam, Northeast India) based journalist

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