‘Not a crime,’ says Assam BJP leader after CM Sarma slams him for congratulating a Congress winner


Guwahati: An Assam BJP leader has earned the wrath of chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for congratulating the Congress’s Gaurav Gogoi, who won the Jorhat parliamentary constituency.

After Sarma said that MLA Mrinal Saikia was expected to congratulate Prime Minister Narendra Modi first, and was probably contemplating switching sides, the Khumtai legislator posted on X Tuesday evening: “I learned today from Himanta Biswa Sarma sir that, to congratulate someone from the opposition is a crime nowadays.”

Saikia also reaffirmed that he always abided by the ideology of the party, but hinted it had all changed now. 

Sharing a picture of the BJP’s stalwarts — Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi — Saikia said he joined the party because he was impressed by these great leaders, who taught party members to “respect others and give due respect to people, irrespective of their political affiliation”. 

Earlier on Tuesday, he had congratulated Gaurav Gogoi on X, terming his victory “significant”. He went on to analyse reasons for the BJP’s loss, stating that the outcome proved that “money, big publicity, overdoses of leaders, and arrogant speeches do not always help win elections”.

The post gathered attention and applause on social media, but irked Sarma who publicly hit out at Saikia. While addressing the media in Delhi, Sarma said Saikia’s move suggested he might soon shift allegiance to another party. 

“Mrinal Saikia did not congratulate PM Narendra Modi, but a winning Congress candidate… My political reading tells me Saikia might not stay in the BJP for long… He should have first congratulated Narendra Modi, then Kamakhya Prasad Tasa, who’s an MP from his own constituency (Kaziranga). Our state president will question him on this, but I think he has made up his mind to not stay in the BJP.” 

“The way people from the Congress have come to us, a few from the BJP would also go to Congress,” he added, hinting that Saikia could join the Opposition. 

Speaking to ThePrint Wednesday, Saikia said he hadn’t spoken to the chief minister yet, adding he was ready to give up his position as a legislator if required. 

“I congratulated Gaurav Gogoi. Then I pointed out some reasons, which I thought played a major role in his victory. But soon, I came to know of the chief minister’s disapproval of it. Even if he chooses to speak to me, I will not deter from my stand. If necessary, I can give up my MLAship,” he said.

“You can ask the people of Jorhat if I am right or wrong. It is not a crime to congratulate a winning candidate even if he’s from the opposite side. It is part of our manners and customs,” he added. 

Reiterating the need for introspection, Saikia said the state BJP should deliberate on finding a corrective course for the future. 

“Jorhat is a very significant win. Gaurav Gogoi won this seat against all odds. We have to introspect ourselves on what went wrong, and then take a corrective course. Otherwise, the future of BJP in Assam will not be safe,” he said.

Saikia cited examples of camaraderie in the past between senior Congress and BJP leaders to critique the present situation. 

“During those days, there was no mud slinging. Jawaharlal Nehru once told Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he would become the future Prime Minister of India. On another occasion, Indira Gandhi had wanted Vajpayee to represent India in Pakistan. Even Vajpayee had referred to Indira Gandhi as ‘Ma Durga’ after the 1971 war,” said Saikia. 

“Such was the political atmosphere then. We must have the courage to point out the good things in the Opposition as well. That’s the real spirit of democracy.” 

Earlier in May, Saikia had sought the chief minister’s intervention against cabinet colleague Jayanta Mallabaruah, who he alleged was damaging the party’s prospects in the election due to “his style of talking”. This had exposed the rift between the party’s old guard and the Congress turncoats.

However, on Tuesday, the chief minister said that Jayanta Mallabaruah had performed far better than Saikia.

(Edited by Tikli Basu)

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