Soft spoken and gentle, yet staunch in his views, Sarbananda Sonowal will be the BJP’s chief ministerial face in poll-bound Assam.The decision was taken by the BJP’s parliamentary board meeting, attended among others by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party President Amit Shah on Thursday evening. Sonowal, the union sports minister, had been at the helm of affairs in the state during the Lok Sabha polls when the BJP won seven of the 14 seats. The Congress had won three, the lowest ever.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”The party’s Parliamentary Board has decided that Assam assembly elections will be contested in the leadership of Sarbananda Sonowal,” Union minister JP Nadda announced after the meeting. The meeting also discussed assembly elections in the other four states — West Bengal, Assam, Tamil Nadu and Puduchery. The meeting, which was also attended by union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, welcomed Shah, who was re-elected party chief on Sunday.Of these states, all of which are likely to head for polls in April this year, the BJP has pinned its hopes of winning on Assam, where it has set a target of 84 seats, two-thirds seats, in the 126-strong assembly. There are very few in Assam politics, save for Prafulla Mahanta, who has had such a meteoric rise as has Sonowal.A senior BJP leader said Sonowal was a youth leader, who would be acceptable to all and had a clean image.The BJP has maintained that its strategy of projecting a face would vary from state to state. In the Bihar election, it had refrained from putting up a chief ministerial candidate, relying on the Modi wave. After projecting Kiran Bedi as chief ministerial candidate in Delhi, this is the second time that the BJP is putting up a face in an assembly poll.Sonowal, a bachelor at 51, began his political career with the All Assam Students Union (AASU), was given the title of Jatiya Nayak. He has been vocal on issues like illegal migrants which he has been raising since his student days in the state, where the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government faces an incumbency disadvantage of being in power for three consecutive terms.The BJP is in talks with the AGP to form a front against the Congress. Sonowal is understood to have had a bitter parting with the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), after which he joined the BJP in 2011.Sonowal had fought the IMDT case in Supreme Court.”I want to thank Prime Minister and party President.I am grateful to them. I believe people will vote for BJP for good administration in Assam,” Sonowal said after the announcement.Sonowal, who hails from the sleepy, riverine town of Molokgaon in the upper Assam district of Dibrugarh, was also keenly into sports like cricket, football and badminton.He did his bachelor of criminal justice from Dibrugarh University, before moving to Guwahati to do his LLB from Gauhati University. It is here that his political career started, with him being appointed the president of AASU in 1992. In 2001, he became the MLA from Assam’s Moran constituency. Soon after, in 2004 he was elected MP in the Lok Sabha from the Dibrugarh constituency, and remained so till 2009.He remained with the AGP till 2011, when he became disillusioned because of the fracas within the party. And, because, many senior party leaders made it clear that they were opposed to doing away with the contentious Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunal) Act, 1983, one of the biggest barriers to deportation of Bangladeshi immigrants, which was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2005.In 2011, he joined the BJP, in a function that was presided by then BJP president Nitin Gadkari, and saw the presence of Assam BJP veteran Bijoya Chakravarty, Varun Gandhi and Vijay Goel. He was, at that point, also made a member of the BJP National Executive, and spokesperson of the state BJP unit. Soon enough, in 2012, he was appointed the state BJP chief.

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Will Sarbananda Sonowal break the Congress spell in Assam?