iTV Network hosted Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma for the fifth day of its 20-day long special series, ‘The Chief Minister’s Podium’. In the exclusive interaction, Sarma talked about topics ranging from the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) to road and rail connectivity in the state. He also spoke about how Assam and the North-East have gained significance in the national political discourse in recent times.
We began the interview by asking Himanta Biswa Sarma what he thinks is the biggest achievement in the first year of his assuming office as the CM of Assam. To this, he responded by saying that his government has focused on expediting development projects in the state and digitising public services. Sarma stated, “The pace of development got speed. It was our mission to provide a digital push to government services.”
For our next question, we asked the Assam CM about his opinion on the mainstreaming of issues pertaining to his state, and the North-East region as a whole. He attributed Prime Minister’s numerous visits to the region as the reason behind the integration of the region’s political discourse with the mainstream politics of the country. He was quoted as saying, “From 2014 onwards, because of PM’s repeated visits to Assam, the North-East became a focus area for the Centre.” He added, “He(PM Modi) has visited North-East, not less than, 60 times.”
The next question to Sarma was about the frequent allegations against the BJP for trying to conceal the agenda of Hindutva with that of development during elections. Responding to the allegations, the Assam CM said that the BJP treats the issues of development and the restoration of India’s cultural identity equally. “We treat development as the top priority, but restoring India’s cultural heritage and establishing it as a world leader is equally important for us. And we are unapologetic about it,” the Chief Minister.
Speaking on accusations against his party for creating hysteria against Muslims over the events depicted in ‘The Kashmir Files,’ Himanta Biswa Sarma told us that if the events depicted in the film are indeed true then it becomes the job of the ruling party to promote it among the masses and help them identify the real problem. “If the events portrayed are the figment of the imagination of a person, then we should discard it, but if these things did happen, then it’s our duty to make our new generation aware of this and work towards finding a solution.”
Sarma then took a question from NewsX editorial team’s Tanishq who wanted to know why a change is not emerging from within the Muslim community regarding a common person law, to which Sarma said, “That is what should have happened. In the 75 years since independence, the Muslim community should have risen to the occasion, but if that did not happen, then something needs to be done by the government.”
The next question came from a viewer from Assam who asked about the roadmap being followed by the Assam government to upgrade connectivity in the state. Sarma replied that the central and state governments are coordinating together to modify the connectivity not only through roads but through air and railways as well. He remarked, “We are spending a lot to upgrade connectivity in the state. The Central government has modified railway tracks into broad gauge. Electrification of tracks is underway. Airports are being upgraded and flights are available for North-Eastern cities. The airport’s terminals are being improved as per international standards. The state government is putting efforts into broadening the network of roads.”
Speaking to a beneficiary of the initiative by First in Class and Rotary India under which one lakh free-of-cost tablets have been distributed among the children of martyrs of the police and armed forces, the Assam CM advised students to develop their soft skills along with the ability to fluently converse in Hindi and English languages. “There are three skills one must possess. The first is spoken English, and the second is spoken Hindi. In my view, fluency in these two languages is a must. Next is how I talk to people and how to negotiate with people. Finally, digital education is a must, somehow we must try to get digital education in a very early stage of our life.”
We concluded the interview on a lighter note by asking Sarma whose call would he answer if gets a call from his wife and PM Modi at the same time. In his repartee, the Assam CM said, “Answering my wife’s call is not that important. Even if I get a call from any of my ministers, let alone the PM, then my wife has to wait.”