Former Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal took oath as a Union Cabinet minister along with 42 new faces on July 7.
Sonowal had stepped aside for his colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma, who took over as Assam chief minister, after the recently-held assembly elections in the state.
Political analysists said that Sonowal’s joining the Union Cabinet is a reward for his performance. He became the first BJP chief minister of a Northeast state when he led the saffron party to power in Assam in 2016.
The 59-year-old former chief minister’s elevation is also a reflection of his proximity to the prime minister.
He was projected as the chief ministerial candidate during the 2016 assembly elections in Assam, which the BJP had won easily. Before becoming the state’s chief minister, Sonowal had served as Union minister for youth affairs and sports in the first Narendra Modi cabinet between 2014 and 2016. He was also briefly the minister for entrepreneurship and skill development in 2014.
A product of Assam’s student movement, Sarbananda Sonowal led the state’s oldest student body, All-Assam Students Union (AASU), from 1992 to 1999. He then joined the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and was elected as an MLA from Moran constituency. In 2004, he became a Lok Sabha member representing Dibrugarh.
Sonowal was appointed president of the BJP’s Assam unit in 2012 and he continues to be a member of the party’s national executive. During the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, he was asked to lead the party’s campaign in the state and was elected as the MP from Lakhimpur in the 16th Lok Sabha.