GUWAHATI: After almost two months since he vacated his post as the chief minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal on Wednesday was picked up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to serve as a the next Union Minister of Ports, Shipping, and Waterways, as well as the Ayush ministry.
Sonowal took charge of the Shipping and Waterways Ministry at a time when India has been looking to put in place a wide navigational network of waterways across the country to ease pressure on roads and provide for an alternate system for key transportation needs.
It’s believed that being the legislator from the only river island constituency of Majuli, Sonowal was a fit choice for the waterways ministry. From now on, he will have to work towards strengthening the country’s network of major and minor ports that hold the key strengthening India’s trade.
However, it was not all easy for Sonowal. The 58-year-old Sonowal was Chief Minister of Assam from 2016-21, but did not have a second term despite leading the party to power as he stepped down to make road for his successor Himanta Biswa Sarma.
A product of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU), Sonowal rose from the tumble of student politics to become the first BJP chief minister for Assam. From AASU he joined the Asom Gana Parishad in 2001, and was elected the party’s MLA from Upper Assam’s Moran constituency in 2001.
In 2004 he went on to successfully contest the Lok Sabha polls wresting the Dibrugarh parliamentary seat for the first time from the Congress by defeating former Union Minister Paban Singh Ghatowar.
Later in 2011, Sonowal left the AGP following differences with the party leadership and went on to join the BJP. Then he went on to become the BJP state unit president in 2012 and was credited with raising the party’s tally to seven from an earlier four in the 2014 parliamentary polls.
He then wrested the Lakhimpur constituency from former Union Minister and Congress veteran Ranee Narah and was made the Union Minister of State for Sports and Youth Development. Later in 2016, he became the chief minister of the state.
Popularly known as a ‘’Jatiya Nayak’ (leader of the community) after the scrapping of the controversial Illegal Migrants’ Determination by Tribunal (IMDT) Act by the Supreme Court in 2005, Sonowal was also called a ‘betrayer’ during his term as the chief minister of Assam when the entire state erupted in anger over BJP’s decision to bring in the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in 2019.
Once called the savior for acting against illegal migrants, Sonowal was allegedly trapped between his past records and his party orders.
The tension went up so high that despite BJP launching a massive poll campaign in the state ahead of the assembly polls in March this year, the saffron camp decided not to name Sonowal as the next chief ministerial candidate. Finally, despite a win, BJP put Sarma in Sonowal’s place.
Many political pundits had predicted that he would be accommodated in the Union cabinet in the next reshuffle. And likewise, Sonowal was chosen the union cabinet on Tuesday and he was all set to start his second innings at the Centre.