GUWAHATI: Dissident Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma, who had resigned as a minister in the Assam government last year following differences with Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, today said he would join the BJP in the next few days.
Once a close associate Gogoi, Sarma, accompanied by stateBJP president Siddhartha Bhattacharjee, met BJP nationalpresident Amit Shaha at his residence in Delhi and expressed his desire to join the BJP and work under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sarma, former state Education and Health minister, said that it was a "well established fact that the BJP would form the next government in Assam in 2016 whether I join the party or not".
Bhattacharjee also announced that Sarma would join the party and the final formalities would be worked out at the state level.
Sarma's differences with Gogoi came to the fore following the 2011 Assembly polls. Claiming the support of more than 30 MLAs, Sarma had urged the Congress high command to remove Gogoi as Chief Minister.
Gogoi described Sarma's decision to join the BJP ashis "personal decision for personal benefit".
Sarma was questioned by the CBI in connection with the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam in November, last year.
His name has also cropped in the Louis Berger bribery case in which Gogoi has ordered a CID probe.
Sarma held the Guwahati Development Department portfolio when Louis Berger was selected as consultant for the Guwahati Water Supply project, being implemented by the GMDA with funds received under the Japan International Cooperation Scheme.
Sarma insisted that he had only decided to join the party and had not bargained for any post. Neither did he wish to comment about whether other dissident Congress legislators could follow suit.
Assam Congress president Anjan Dutta said he was yet to receive any communication from Sarma regarding his leaving the party in favour of the BJP and hence he cannot comment.
"It is only in the electronic media that I have seen that he has met BJP President Amit Shah in Delhi and expressed his desire to join their party. I cannot comment on this until I receive the resignation letter from him," he said.
Congress MP from Kaliabor Gaurav Gogoi, who is the chief minister's son, said Sarma's joining the BJP was a "personal decision" and he respects it.
Senior BJP leader and Guwahati MP Bijoya Chakravorty today welcomed Sarma's decision to join the party.
"Sarma is no doubt a powerful and effective leader and his joining the party will definitely have a positive impact," Chakravorty told reporters here.