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Modi govt 3.0: BJP’s key Northeast face, Sarbananda Sonowal set to return as Union Minister

Elected to the Lok Sabha for the third time, former Assam CM and Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal is likely to bag a Cabinet berth again on Sunday.

Sonowal who handled the Ports, Shipping and Waterways and AYUSH ministries won from Dibrugarh by 2.79 lakh votes. He was also previously elected from the seat as an Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) MP in 2004.

In the previous Modi government, he was one of two Cabinet ministers from the Northeast; the other being Kiren Rijiju from Arunachal Pradesh who has been re-elected this time.

Sonowal, a respected veteran leader known for his affable personality, is a key face for the BJP in Assam and the Northeast. He joined the BJP in 2011 after more than a decade as a public representative of the AGP, and his image as an Assamese nationalist leader was crucial to enabling the BJP to localise its appeal in the state.

The entry of current Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma to the party in 2015 propelled the BJP to victory in the 2016 Assam Assembly elections. Sonowal went on to become Assam’s first BJP CM that year.

Sonowal’s time as a CM was far from easy, with the preparation of the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) and the heated protests against the Citizenship Amendment Bill — later the Citizenship Amendment Act — occurring during his term.

The protests against the Citizenship Amendment legislation in Assam – which were largely in opposition to granting citizenship to any foreigner who entered Assam after March 24, 1971, regardless of religion – had put Sonowal in an especially uncomfortable situation.

This was because Sonowal himself rose to prominence in the 1990s when he challenged another contentious act — The Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, 1983 — under which the onus of

Read more on indianexpress.com