‘On CAA… I feel we must protect genuine refugees’: Himanta Biswa Sarma

Seen as as a prime contender for the Chief Minister’s post in Assam, senior BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma spoke to The Indian Express after his party’s victory in the state. Excerpts:

What has helped the BJP return to power?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made the Northeast the centre of development in the country… There are policies towards the development of infrastructure, roads, railway, universities etc. The state government too took a number of initiatives. People have also appreciated the state government’s fight against Covid… and have voted against the divisive politics and unholy alliances of the Opposition.

The BJP usually backs the incumbent CM in an election. Why not in Assam.

The central leadership will have to answer this question. But I think as a political party, we do not have a straitjacket formula. According to the political situation and requirement, the party adopts a policy or stand.

As health minister, you managed the state’s Covid situation. Do you think it helped the party’s victory?

Some things have contributed. A women empowerment policy, of transfering cash to 22 lakh women, the management of Covid where Assam is a model for other states… People have realised that continuity in government would make Assam prosperous.

Given the Covid situation, doesn’t the state require experienced hands?

It’s time the country is united, keeping aside political differences and rally around the PM…Whoever is going to head the government, first priority is to manage the Covid situation.

Were you promised chief ministership of Assam?

No, absolutely not… We have not discussed anything on that line… I am satisfied that, somewhere in the BJP’s victory, there is a small contribution from my side also.

What’s going to be new in this government?

We have a vision document which is slightly different from the last one. Because we did not have governmental experience last time… Last time, it was only I who had the ministerial experience in the government. But this time we will have many experienced hands…

What will happen to the CAA after the West Bengal defeat for the BJP (the party kept quiet on the Act in Assam during the polls)?

The CAA is a legislation passed by Parliament and the Centre has to frame rules for it. We will not be able to say anything unless we have the rules. But I strongly feel that India must protect its genuine refugees.

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