Tarun Gogoi, the soft-spoken Congress stalwart, was known as the voice of the Congress from northeast much before late P.A. Sangma came to prominence, and after the death of Gopinath Bordoloi, Congress leader and first chief minister of Assam. With his demise, Gogoi leaves behind a rich legacy.
Gogoi passed away on Monday at the age of 86. He was being treated at the Gauhati Medical College Hospital for post-COVID-19 complications.
In the seventies, Gogoi emerged as a youth leader of the Congress when Indira Gandhi was at the helm of affairs. Even when party seniors like Hiteswar Saikia used to rule the Assam Congress, Indira Gandhi turned to Gogoi for advice on issues regarding northeast.
Gogoi was made the joint national general secretary of the Congress in 1976. Before that, Gandhi brought him to Delhi as a Lok Sabha MP from Jorhat, his hometown, in 1971. In 1985, he was made a general secretary of the Congress, as much like his mother, Rajiv Gandhi too used to place his trust in Gogoi. When the ULFA menace was at its peak in Assam, Gogoi used to be among the top advisers for Rajiv Gandhi.
However, in Assam, he used to play second fiddle to leaders like Saikia.
The death of Rajiv Gandhi was a setback for Gogoi, as leaders like P. V. Narasimha Rao, who reposed their faith in Sangma from Meghalaya—who had a good grasp of Assam—and Saikia, sidelined him.
However, Rao was careful not to create any sort of rivalry between the party leaders in northeast. Gogoi was accommodated in his council of ministers. What Rao tried to do was get an impartial voice like Sangma to solve the decades- long crisis in northeast.
Sonia Gandhi taking over the Congress saw Gogoi back in prominence. In 2001, Gogoi was made the Congress chief minister of Assam. Gogoi proved that he wasn't the wrong horse to bet on as the party performed well in the elections, and he was the chief minister for 15 years.
His 15 years of being at the helm of affairs proved to be mixed bag for Assam. As CM, he managed to create stability and brought peace in Assam, but wasn't too successful in bringing in much-needed development to the state.
Gogoi he did not belong to the hawkish group of Congress leaders who believed in the separation of Assam from India in the name of anti-videshi movement which gripped the northeast since the eighties.
It was during his tenure as the chief minister, based on the Supreme Court directive, the process of NRC began. Gogoi was sensible and sensitive, and did not use the foreigners’ law harshly to detect the illegal immigrants in the state. In fact, during his time, the NRC process was slow, forcing the apex court to come down heavily on him. This cost him dearly as BJP's Sarbananda Sonowal and civil organisations like All Assam Students' Union and political organisation, Asom Gana Parishad, used the opportunity to create a massive campaign against him. Gogoi had already things going against him when all of these forces united against him, and in the 2016 elections, he was defeated.
When the NRC list came out in 2019, Gogoi told this correspondent, “I told you that any hurriedly done attempt would lead to massive confusion among the people. Just see what the mess they have created.”
He was a fierce opponent of CAA as he felt foreigners are foreigners irrespective of caste, creed and religion. “If Hindus get the benefit of the doubt, so should Muslims,” Gogoi had told THE WEEK.
He wore his black gown in Sthe Supreme Court to fight the case. Gogoi said he believed that the NRC would go against BJP in the 2021 election. He will not be there to see whether this would actually happen.
Congress has lost its voice of northeast with Gogoi demise.