Home / Politics / Policy /  Assam election results: The stunning rise of Sarbananda Sonowal

New Delhi: Five years after he switched to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) from the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), 53-year-old Union minister Sarbananda Sonowal is set to become the first BJP chief minister of Assam after his party made history on Thursday by winning the assembly polls.

Sonowal was named president of BJP’s state unit in 2012, within a year of joining the party. The party’s assembly election debacle of 2011, where it won just 5 of the 126 seats, prompted it to look for replacements of state leaders.

Sonowal, in alliance with AGP, has managed to do what no leader has been able to in Assam in 15 years—end the three-term reign of Congress chief minister Tarun Gogoi.

Born in 1962, Sonowal is among the BJP’s young leaders in Assam. He has a bachelor’s in communication and journalism from Gauhati University and also an LLB from Dibrugarh University.

Sonowal’s political journey began in 1992 when he became president of the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU). He remained AASU chief till 1999. His first shot at an assembly election came soon after he joined Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), and he was elected member of the legislative assembly from Moran constituency in 2001.

Sonowal was also the chairman of the North East Students’ Organisation from 1994 to 2004.

Sonowal entered the Lok Sabha in 2004, defeating Union minister Ranee Narah of Congress from Lakhimpur constituency. However, he lost the next Lok Sabha elections from Dibrugarh constituency.

AGP’s election debacle in 2009, when it won only one of the six Lok Sabha seats it contested -- out of Assam’s 14 Lok Sabha seats -- led to questions about the party’s strategy and future. In 2011, he quit AGP to join BJP.

The BJP, which was also not pleased with its electoral performance in 2009, decided to change the state leadership and made Sonowal chief of the Assam state unit in 2012. Sonowal led the BJP to its best-ever performance in Assam during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, when the party won 7 seats in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi made Sonowal Union minister for sports and youth affairs.

The general elections also saw Sonowal return to Lakhimpur constituency, from where he was elected to the Lok Sabha.

BJP named Sonowal as its chief ministerial candidate back in November 2015. Six months on, the responsibility of running a state as complex and diverse as Assam rests on him.

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