Modi Cabinet 3.0: Three from Northeast sworn in, Pabita Margherita surprise pick

The NDA had bagged 16 of the Northeast’s 25 parliamentary seats with the BJP alone accounting for 13 – nine in Assam and two each in Arunachal and Tripura. The party rules these three states.
Assam BJP MP Pabitra Margherita
Assam BJP MP Pabitra MargheritaFile photo

GUWAHATI: Three BJP leaders from the Northeast were inducted into Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA ministry at the Centre on Sunday.

The three are Sarbananda Sonowal and Kiren Rijiju, both Cabinet ministers in the outgoing government, and Rajya Sabha member Pabitra Margherita, a new face. In 2019, four from the Northeast were inducted – Rameswar Teli (Assam) and Pratima Bhoumik (Tripura) being the two others.

Sonowal and Margherita are from Assam while Rijiju is from Arunachal Pradesh. The NDA had bagged 16 of the Northeast’s 25 parliamentary seats with the BJP alone accounting for 13 – nine in Assam and two each in Arunachal and Tripura. The party rules these three states.

While the induction of seasoned politicians Sonowal, who is also a former chief minister, and Rijiju were on expected lines, Margherita was a surprise choice. His original name is Pabitra Gogoi. He uses the name of native town – Margherita in upper Assam’s Tinsukia district – as his surname.

Margherita was a cultural activist before joining politics in 2014. He was elected as a Rajya Sabha member in 2022 and is also the political secretary to Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.

According to observers, by inducting Margherita into the ministry, the BJP is pitting an Ahom against another Ahom – three-time Lok Sabha member Gaurav Gogoi who was elected from Jorhat this election – in upper Assam. Jorhat, Dibrugarh and a portion of Kaziranga parliamentary constituencies make up upper Assam and the region has a large number of Ahom voters.

The observers said the BJP picked the 49-year-old Margherita to prevent the Congress from regaining its lost ground in upper Assam. The Congress was a formidable force in this region during its three terms (2001-2016) under Gaurav’s father, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi.

The Jorhat seat is constituted with 10 Assembly segments and in nine of them, the Congress got more votes than the BJP. The only Assembly constituency where the BJP fared better than the Congress was Majuli.

The BJP fears that its 2026 Assembly election prospects in upper Assam could be affected by the Congress’ improved performance in Jorhat, so it has started the groundwork by inducting Margherita into the ministry.

Speculations were rife that former Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb would make the cut. However, the BJP ignored him.

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