Modi may not continue for five years, says Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi

He says CM Himanta Biswa Sarma's campaign against him backfired

28-Gaurav-Gogoi Gaurav Gogoi | Sanjay Ahlawat

Interview/ Gaurav Gogoi, Congress MP, Jorhat, Assam

GAURAV GOGOI, 41, won a tough fight in the Jorhat Lok Sabha constituency, where he was up against the might of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. Sarma’s rivalry with Gogoi is no secret and his cabinet colleagues also campaigned in Jorhat, making it clear that it was a prestige battle. While the Congress did not increase its tally in Assam, Gogoi’s victory by a margin of 1.44 lakh votes is being projected as a moral defeat for Sarma.

In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Gogoi said the results in Assam had far greater significance compared with 2019, and that it should be seen as the semifinal before the 2026 assembly elections. Gogoi, who was the deputy leader of the Congress in the outgoing Lok Sabha, also spoke about his expectation that a strong opposition would hold the government to account in the house. Excerpts:

Q/ Would you rate Jorhat as your toughest electoral battle?

A/ It has been the toughest moment not only politically, but professionally, even when I compare with the time before I joined politics. Although I expected victory, the margin was unexpected. The amount of affection I got was unexpected. While the polling percentage dropped in many seats, in Jorhat it shot up by two points. People said they travelled for miles to cast their vote. I met a person who had come from Dubai just to vote.

Q/ The chief minister himself focused a lot on Jorhat. Did his campaign backfire?

A/ Totally. The BJP leaders themselves are saying so. Siddhartha Bhattacharya, who was party president when Sarma joined the BJP, has remarked on this election. [“Unlike his previous victory,... this time Gaurav has won on his own merit,” Bhattacharya told the media.] Ranjeet Dass, another former BJP President, said he always knew that Gaurav Gogoi was going to win. Former Union minister Rajen Gohain lambasted the chief minister at a press conference. [All of them] said that in this campaign, the real BJP worker and leader found no place in Jorhat or elsewhere. The BJP itself says the way the chief minister and the ministers campaigned, it ended up hurting the party.

Q/ This also puts the focus on the rivalry between Sarma and you.

A/ Prior to this election, Sarma had announced that in the assembly elections to be held two years from now, he wanted to contest from Jorhat. But in a recent press conference, he said he would go to Jorhat only if the party asked him to. The people of Jorhat have sent a resounding message to him and his tune has changed. I have no professional rivalry. I am not in politics to defeat political rivals. I have seen in Assam that the politics practised by my father brought about peace and stability. That is why, in Parliament, during the no-confidence motion on Manipur, I did not speak only as a Congressman, but also as a person from the northeast who has seen politics unite a region.

Q/ The Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra had passed through Jorhat.

A/ What a message from Rahul Gandhi to have started from Manipur, and we saw its impact in both the seats. To have spent time in Nagaland walking, I would credit the seat in Nagaland [to that], the Congress having last won Nagaland in the 1990s. Meghalaya, too. This was after our defeat in Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh which had a huge impact on the morale of the Congress. This was also when the Ram Mandir was being consecrated by the prime minister. In that context, to spend seven days in Assam was phenomenal.

Q/ So the Congress has made a sort of a comeback in the northeast.

A/ The recovery began with the Bharat Jodo Yatra. It continued with Karnataka. It continued despite the ED investigations against Rahul ji and Sonia ji. It continued despite the disqualification of Rahul ji, and despite many leaders from the Congress being poached. The recovery continued despite facing losses in three north Indian states and having won Telangana. It continued with the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra. It continues with the Lok Sabha elections. But we are not satisfied. We will work harder in the days to come.

Q/ In Assam, you could not increase your tally.

A/ We won three seats in 2019, and we won three seats in 2024. But these three have a much bigger impact than the three of 2019. We are talking about the victories in Jorhat, in Dhubri, in a much different manner than five years ago.

Q/ Will the Congress’s prospects in assembly polls be different?

A/ Yes, absolutely. I met Priyanka Gandhi ji, and I said our mission was incomplete. In Assam, this is just the semifinal. The final is two years from now. Just as the people of Jorhat defeated Sarma, two years from now, the people of Assam will defeat him. The victory in Dhubri was also critical because by defeating the AIUDF, we have weakened the BJP and the politics of Sarma. Both Jorhat and Dhubri have changed the political landscape of Assam and weakened Sarma tremendously.

Q/ About the national picture, while NDA has formed government, the opposition is celebrating.

A/ People are celebrating. They are unhappy with the BJP. That is why, in Rae Bareli, Rahul ji won with a three lakh plus margin, while the prime minister was trailing in Varanasi. That is why despite trying to gain votes in the name of Lord Ram, he punished the BJP for doing politics in his name. Whether it is Rajasthan or Maharashtra or the victory of that brave woman MP in Gujarat, these form a strong message. They have been taught a lesson in humility. [We will have] a far more balanced Parliament. We are going to ensure that the government is accountable, bills are not bulldozed, committees are not neglected, questions are not avoided and the prime minister is present.

Q/ There is a view that this will not be a stable government.

A/ We have seen coalitions during UPA-I and UPA-II and during Vajpayee ji’s tenure. We saw that the leadership has to be accommodating, willing to listen and be flexible. I do not think Prime Minister Modi possesses these qualities. Therefore, whether he will continue as prime minister for five years is suspect. If his future is suspect, what is the future of this government?