DH Interview | Our democracy not like America’s, Rahul should not call PM for debate: Himanta Sarma

Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma speaks to DH’s Amrita Madhukalya in an exclusive interview.
Last Updated : 26 May 2024, 14:58 IST
Last Updated : 26 May 2024, 14:58 IST

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Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma speaks to DH’s Amrita Madhukalya on why ‘400 paar’ is being heard less, why Congress should deploy their best manpower in Assam and why the state’s ‘changing demography’ is creating ‘insecurity’ among original inhabitants. Excerpts:

Six phases of polls are over and the final one is due in a few days. How do you feel the BJP will do, will it cross 400?

I think we crossed the majority mark by the fifth phase. Now it all depends on the sixth and seventh phases – how much lead will these two phases give us. I believe that the reference point of these election results will be 400; we could win 26 more than 400 or 26 less than it but the post-poll discussion will be around the 400 seats.

That is a big claim; the Congress and I.N.D.I.A. bloc leaders say that the BJP’s campaign tagline of “400 paar” is now not heard.

I think the BJP need not reaffirm this every day – the slogan that we have coined is ‘ab ki baar, 400 paar’. It has been spoken, and spoken loudly. Every morning we do not have to go out there and say that we will get 400. The media keeps asking us about that and we keep replying.

Before Delhi went to polls on Saturday, you were one of the star campaigners, and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has said that the BJP will put every Opposition leader in jail. How do you look at this?

(Yes) if they are mired in corruption. If any Opposition or even ruling party leader, sitting in the chief minister’s chair, indulges in corruption, he will surely land up in jail during Modi’s regime. That’s the line of governance of Narendra Modi. What he (Kejriwal) has claimed is correct, but it will be true if a leader is corrupt.

You have been a vocal critic of Rahul Gandhi, his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra had faced several stumbles in Assam. He is likely to deploy a star strategist for the Assam assembly elections. How will you counter him?

First of all, he has not faced anything in Assam, except when he said that I will go through Guwahati. We said, no, don't go through the main roads because it will lead to traffic congestion. We told him, go through Guwahati but through another road. And that is a road that we also use for our day to day travel. Because as politicians, we have to ensure that our journey or our activity doesn’t give commuters any trouble. So, that’s the only issue. Most of the deliberation played out in the media. On his yatra, he has not faced any trouble.

Second, I think Assam is an important state and Congress should deploy the best of the manpower in Assam elections because that will enhance Assam’s stature; I will be happy about that.

Rahul Gandhi has also invited the prime minister to a debate. How do you respond to that?

I think he should not call the PM for a debate, I think he should join the debate once the Parliament is constituted, provided he wins. He should participate in a debate with the prime minister. Our democracy is not an American type of democracy. Biden and Trump will get an opportunity for debate, only on the eve of the elections.

But our democracy is a Parliamentary democracy where the leader of the Opposition, or any member of the Opposition gets ample opportunity to debate with the government of the day. The question now is whether Rahul Gandhi will utilise that forum or not. If he does so, he can surely debate with the PM. Atleast every year they got in a no-confidence motion. He can involve the PM in a debate. During every Motion of Thanks debate after a Presidential address, the PM speaks and he can engage him in a debate. So, the ball is in Rahul Gandhi's court – whether he will prefer to debate with the prime minister or he would like to go to a meditation centre.

Do you feel the prime minister this particular term has been using emotive issues in his speeches, as opposed to talking about what the government has done in the last ten years?

Elections are all about issues; we will raise the issues which we think are the most appropriate. So what issues will be raised, during an election, cannot be dictated by our opponent. It has to be decided by the party. We do not dictate to the Congress what issues they should raise or should not.

Similarly, the Congress shouldn’t dictate what issues we raise; it is for the party leadership to decide. The prime minister in his wisdom, and the BJP in its wisdom, have decided to raise certain issues before the public which we feel are very important for the future of the country. Now for somebody, it may be emotive, and for somebody, these will be the most essential issues. On June 4, you will get the answer whether those issues were emotive or those were issues people have considered most decisive.

The demography of Assam has always been in the news. There’s now a new report on the demographics of Assam, but the criticism against that from the Opposition is that it is ill-timed. How do you respond?

Assam’s demography is changing fast and that has created a lot of insecurity among the original inhabitants of the state. That is a fact. Now, when will a report be published, how will it be done so – that’s for academicians and researchers to decide. But the hard fact remains that the people of Assam are facing a serious threat to their identity.

TATA has declared investments in Assam, a first for the region. Can we expect more in the near future?

Yes, I think Tata's investments in semiconductors is just the beginning. Going by the present law and order situation, the present governance index, the reforms we have initiated, and going by the Government of India’s ‘Act East’ policy, I think in the days to come, Assam will be one of the best investment destinations.

Can we expect you to be a part of the Modi Cabinet in the future?

I think we have a lot of things to do in Assam, and I have been the chief minister for just three years. This is a premature question because I have a lot of things to do in my state, and I have huge commitments for the state, and at least sitting in this moment now, I do not see any role for myself in Delhi. However, in a party like BJP, nobody can decide about their future, it is up to the party leadership.

Published 26 May 2024, 14:58 IST

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