Assam's incumbent CM Sarbananda Sonowal and minister Himanta Biswa Sarma reached Delhi on Saturday, 8 May, to meet the BJP's central leadership on the crucial issue of who would be the next chief minister of the state.
Visuals shared by news agency ANI showed Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP General Secretary (Organisation) BL Santosh and Himanta Biswa Sarma reaching party chief JP Nadda's residence for a meeting.
Since the BJP and its alliance partners won 75 seats in the 126-member Assam Assembly, with the election results announced on 2 May, speculation has been rife whether Sonowal will continue being the chief minister of the state, or whether the more popular Sarma would get his chance this time around.
In 2016, the BJP had announced Sonowal as its chief ministerial candidate, but this time, the party held back from naming anyone.
Himanta-Sonowal: A Case of Contrasting Personalities
Joining the BJP in late 2015 after a falling out with the Congress, many say Himanta Biswa Sarma ensured BJP's win in the state in 2016.
The convenor of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), Sarma has also played a key role in establishing the saffron party in the northeast. In Assam, he projected an image of standing for 'development plus Hindutva' in the run up to the elections.
What makes Himanta Biswa Sarma so popular is the fact that he’s a mass leader. Many have felt that his connect with the bottom-rung party workers has cemented his position as a strong contender for the CM’s post.
Sonowal, meanwhile, revels in the role of acting as a bridge between Assamese ethnic nationalism and the BJP. He was the president of the All Assam Students' Union from 1992 to 1997, after which he joined the Asom Gana Parishad in 1999, at a time when the party was in power in the state.
What brought Sonowal into prominence was his role in getting the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983, struck down in the Supreme Court in 2005, which is said to have made him a 'Jatiya Nayak' or a hero of the Assamese people.
In the run-up to the elections, there was also speculation that the choice for the top post would be dependent on how the BJP performs. As per that, a clear majority would have meant a better chance for Sonowal to claim the top post, while a slender majority or falling just below the majority mark would have given Sarma the leverage.