Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal hopes for a second term for his party, and perhaps for himself. The second part is uncertain, since the BJP has not named him Chief Ministerial candidate yet, which is seen to reflect the party’s dilemma over a bigger role for Himanta Biswa Sarma, its top strategist in the northeast.
Sarbananda Sonowal is banking on how Majuli, one of the biggest river islands in Asia, has transformed since it became the Chief Minister’s constituency; it is now a district, has better roads, and a bridge has been promised.
“Protection of culture and civilization, making Assam self-sufficient is the focus of our campaign,” Mr Sonowal told NDTV on the sidelines of his campaign at Majuli.
Majuli is a reserved constituency, one of the seats where elections will be held in the first phase of assembly polls in Assam on Saturday.
From a student leader to Chief Minister, Mr Sonowal has traveled a long way. Fondly known as “Jatiya Nayak” for his fight against illegal migrants, Mr Sonowal is a big plus for his party in terms of his image.
In his last election rally in Majuli on Thursday, his supporters were excited.
“Majuli has seen a massive face lift after he became our MLA; there are new avenues coming up …we want Sonowal as Chief Minister again,” said a supporter.
Another supporter added: “Sonowal has ensured the territory of Majuli is protected. Our issues have been addressed so we want him back.”
Mr Sonowal’s main opponent is former Assam Minister Rajib Lochan Pegu of the Congress, who accuses the BJP of appropriating the work done by the previous Congress governments.
Mr Pegu, a three-time winner from the high-profile constituency, was defeated by Mr Sonowal in the 2016 polls.
“The road you see was built during Congress time. Sonowal only did the maintenance and they have laid the foundation stone of the proposed bridge to Majuli twice, but no work has been done,” said Mr Pegu.
But Mr Sonowal also has critics in Majuli.
“This time Sonowal has not even been named a Chief Ministerial candidate so don’t think the BJP government will return to power; we don’t need a Hitler-type government,” said a young man.
Solving Majuli’s perineal flood and erosion problem tops Mr Sonowal’s agenda – it’s a promise that might help him win a second term, at least as an MLA if not Chief Minister.
Assam will vote from Saturday to April 6 in three rounds for a new government. The results will be declared on May 2.