Within 40 days of taking over as chief minister of Assam, Himanta Biswa Sharma has managed to grab the attention of the national media several times in a row, and received both praise for his welfare schemes and criticism for his sharp way of dealing with certain issues.
Some of the decisions that won him applaud include accelerating peace talks with Ulfa (I) nearly after 16 years, launching a statewide ‘war against drugs’, raising Assam Govt’s stake in Numaligrah Refinery Limited (NRL) to 26% from the earlier level of 12.35% paving way for Assam from an oil producing state to a marketing and refining entity in collaboration with OIL India Limited.
Speaking at a recent press meet, he explained Assam govt’s proactive approach on different issues. “You won’t get a political leader like me. I may sound a little proud but I am trying to complete everything within one month. You have voted me for next 5years and yet I am running the ‘train’ with maximum possible speed so that nobody has to suffer.”
While these proceedings received a positive response, some decisions and announcement by him have drawn sharp reactions from different stakeholders. Here’s a look:
Implementation of Population policy
On June 18, the chief minister announced that Assam government will slowly implement population norms for state government schemes. However, as an exception he said the rule won’t be applicable to tea garden workers and the SC-ST community. “In future, population norms will be taken into account as eligibility for government benefits. Population policy has begun,” he said.
However, he clarified and said there are some schemes for which the state govt can’t impose the two-child norm, like availing free admission in schools and colleges, or for houses under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana so everyone will get that.
Reacting to the decision, Indian Union Muslim League National President K Kader Mohideen told media, “This policy of Assam is not only discriminatory but anti-secular and unconstitutional.”
Earlier on June 10, Himanta Biswa had urged the minority community in the state to adopt a decent family planning policy which was slammed as an ‘anti secular’ move. He said that unplanned population growth leads to shrinking of living space and consequent land encroachment.
No Electricity Bill, No Salary
The Assam chief minister announced that there will be no salary for those who don’t clear their pending electricity bills. The drawing and disbursing officers (DDO) have been asked to ensure collection of ‘No dues payable against Electricity bill of APDCL certificate’ for all employees prior to processing of wages or salary bills on or before June 30.
Appealing to Opposition MLAs to join BJP
Himanta Biswa has appealed to all opposition MLAs to join the ruling BJP. His statement came days after four-time Congress MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi joined the saffron party. “What will they do in opposition for five years? They should rather join us. Since we are working for the welfare of people irrespective of caste, creed and religion, I appeal to them (opposition members) to join us and work together for the public,” he said.
Soon after, leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly, Debabrata Saikia, demanded a public apology from Biswa for uttering ‘undemocratic words’. He said it has been possible for the BJP to form a government at the Centre today with more than 300 MPs in Parliament due to provisions of the Indian Constitution and the democratic system.
Stressing further the role of opposition in democratic system he said, the main role of the Opposition is to criticise the government constructively and to protest against any act of the government against the public interest, to protect the rights and freedom of the people and to express the views of the people to the government.