GUWAHATI: Assam politics began to drift into election mode with nine dissident Congress MLAs affiliated to Himanta Biswa Sarma set to join the BJP on Friday.
The BJP leadership cleared the proposal pending since Sarma revolted against Congress to embrace the saffron camp.
Congress is buffeted by strong anti-incumbency and a defection from its ranks led by Sarma in a state that goes to polls in mid-2016. The joining of Congress MLAs will give a fillip to the BJP unit that fancies its chances in the coming elections after the performance in the Lok Sabha elections.
Four of these nine MLAs have been suspended from the party by the state Congress leadership and five issued show-cause notices for dissidence under the leadership of Sarma who joined BJP in August. The flight of these nine MLAs and Sarma to BJP poses no threat to the Congress government as its strength in the assembly, though reduced to 69, is still more than the halfway mark of 63 in the House of 126 members.
The rebels had expressed their desire to join the saffron camp in September last year before BJP president Amit Shah, but the formal joining was delayed by stiff opposition from several quarters within the party. BJP old-timers feel taking in sitting MLAs of Congress would ruin their chances of getting party tickets in the assembly elections.
State BJP chief Siddharth Bhattacharya said, "These nine Congress MLAs wanted to join the party a long time back but due to some technical difficulties that did not happen. They will finally join tomorrow."
On Thursday afternoon, the nine MLAs along with Sarma met Union minister of state for sports and youth welfare Sarbananda Sonowal and BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi airport here.
The nine Congress MLAs are Bolin Chetia (Sadiya), Pradan Barua (Jonai), Pallab Lochan Das (Behali), Rajen Borthakur (Tezpur), Pijush Hazarika (Roha), Kripanath Mallah (Ratabari), Abu Taher Bepari (Golakganj), Binanda Saikia (Sipajhar) and Jayanta Mallah Barua (Nalbari).
Assam BJP spokesman Rupam Goswami said, "Nine Congress MLAs are joining our party tomorrow and we welcome anyone who wants to join our party. The popularity of BJP in Assam is increasing at a fast pace and the popular belief here is that BJP will win the 2016 assembly elections. This belief has led several leaders of various political parties to join BJP."
State Congress general secretary (administration) Diganta Choudhury said, "This was expected long back. This is stale news for the people of Assam." AICC general secretary and in-charge of the state C P Joshi had earlier described the deserters as "ambitious" people.