Rahul Gandhi ‘s remarks, which crossed a line, turned the exchange personal for Himanta Biswa Sarma
The political landscape in Assam has become a battleground as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s ongoing yatra, aimed at delivering justice to the people of India, takes an unexpectedly contentious turn. The underlying cause of the escalating tension lies in the personal nature of the conflict between Rahul Gandhi and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra (BJNY), spanning 14 states in around two months, re-entered Assam on January 21 after a brief stop in Arunachal Pradesh. However, what was intended as a peaceful ‘padyatra’ soon turned into a series of confrontations, demonstrations, and clashes with BJP supporters, mirroring previous incidents before entering Arunachal Pradesh. This time, however, the yatra faced not only opposition from political rivals but also the formidable resistance of the state government, led by Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma.
The verbal sparring between Rahul Gandhi and Himanta Biswa Sarma reached new heights, with the Congress leader launching scathing attacks on the Chief Minister and his family. On January 18, Rahul Gandhi alleged that Sarma’s entire family, including his children and wife, were involved in corruption. Addressing a gathering in Assam, he declared, “India’s most corrupt Chief Minister is the Chief Minister of Assam. Every member of his family, be it children, his wife, or himself, is involved in corruption.” This marked a significant escalation in the rhetoric, as personal accusations against family members were thrown into the political arena.
Himanta Biswa Sarma, a seasoned political veteran, has weathered numerous challenges in the past. However, the attack on his family, particularly his children, by Rahul Gandhi infuriated him. In response, Himanta referred to Rahul as Ravan, drawing parallels with the demon king, signaling that the political discourse had taken a deeply personal turn.
The clash reached its peak on January 23, as Himanta Biswa Sarma instructed the Assam Director General of Police to file an FIR against Rahul Gandhi. The Chief Minister accused Rahul of allegedly provoking the crowd to break barricades during the yatra. The FIR named not only Rahul Gandhi but also Congress leaders KC Venugopal and Kanhaiya Kumar. This legal action added another layer of intensity to the already heated political atmosphere.
The ongoing conflict between Rahul Gandhi and Himanta Biswa Sarma is not a recent development; it has roots dating back to 2015. At that time, Sarma, a loyal Congress leader, felt sidelined within the party as then Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi was promoting his son, Gaurav Gogoi. Sarma brought his concerns, including the feeling of humiliation, to the attention of the Congress leadership, including Rahul Gandhi. However, his pleas for fair treatment fell on deaf ears, leading to a sense of betrayal.
In 2017, Sarma posted on social media, “Sir @OfficeOfRG, who knows him better than me. Still remember you busy feeding biscuits 2 him while We wanted to discuss urgent Assam’s issues.” Feeling unsupported, Sarma made a bold move and quit the Congress, joining the BJP with a vow to make the Northeast Congress-free. His switch played a crucial role in the BJP’s success story in Assam and the larger Northeast.
The personal equation between Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Rahul Gandhi, already strained by historical events, has only deteriorated in recent times. The current yatra has not only reignited political tensions but has also brought to the surface the deep-seated personal animosity between the two leaders.
Despite attempts to address security concerns, the conflict shows no signs of abating. On a recent occasion, Rahul Gandhi once again labeled Himanta Biswa Sarma as the “most corrupt chief minister in the country,” further fueling the acrimony. The personal attacks, especially those targeting family members, including children, have heightened the hostility between the two leaders. The ongoing clash not only reflects the current political turmoil in Assam but also underscores the long-standing and bitter differences that continue to define the relationship between Rahul Gandhi and Himanta Biswa Sarma. As the political drama unfolds, it remains to be seen whether any resolution is in sight or if the animosity will persist, shaping the trajectory of Assam’s political landscape.