Gogoi works hard to keep Modi wave away

Gogoi works hard to keep Modi wave away

As Tarun Gogoi gets off his car, a young boy clad in traditional dhoti and kurta with gamosas (towels) tied around his head and waist blows a pepa (flute). Another beats a dhol (drum), as young danseuses waltz in, with an enhancing folk tune livening up the crowd.

It is the Bihu time in Assam and the spirit of festivity has not spared even Gogoi. The state’s septuagenarian chief minister smilingly joins the young ‘Bihuwas’ and ‘Bihuwatis’, making a few brisk dance steps, flinging and flipping his hands and swaying to the tune of ‘Bihu Geet’.

“Bihu not only heralds advent of spring and marks beginning of new agriculture season in Assam, but it also binds people of different communities together and promotes peace and harmony, reflecting our secular traditions,” said Gogoi. He later addressed an election rally at Bura Buri in Jagiroad — one of the assembly segments of the parliamentary constituency of Nowgong.

He then goes on to target the Bharatiya Janata Party, which has won Nowgong thrice since 1999. “If you want to protect Assam’s heritage of communal harmony and its unique composite culture, reject the divisive politics of the BJP,” Gogoi said, who has been at the helm of the state government since 2001. He seeks votes for Jonjonali Barua, the Congress’ bet against Rajen Gohain, who won from Nowgong in 1999, 2004 and 2009. 

The Congress won half of Assam’s 14 Lok Sabha seats in the last two parliamentary polls.

It is perhaps the only state, where the party still hopes to do even better this time.

Gogoi himself has promised to resign if the party’s tally goes down in the state. He is now working hard and is crisscrossing the state everyday, canvassing extensively for the Congress candidates.

With the Asom Gana Parishad now struggling for survival, Gogoi mainly targets the BJP, which is the principal challenger to the Congress in Assam. He also attacks the BJP’s prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. “Modi remembers Assam only when he lands in Guwahati and he forgets the state the moment he flies out. It is the Congress, which will stay with you through thick and thin,” he said.

Gogoi lists out his government’s several achievements: Assam registered 13 per cent growth in gross state domestic product in 2012-13 against 8.52 per cent in Gujarat; Assam’s overall debt stood at Rs 29,200 crore, compared to Rs 176,500 crore of Gujarat and Assam spends 3.13 per cent and 4.80 per cent of its annual budget in rural development and public health respectively, as against 2.8 per cent and 4.6 per cent in Gujarat. “Assam’s rank in health index is third compared to 13th of Gujarat. Our ranking is 13th in education, while Gujarat’s position is 20th,” he points out.

What Gogoi is worried about is the emergence of the All India United Democratic Front, which has over the past few years eroded the Congress’ Muslim vote bank. What also adds to his worry is infighting within the party. His one-time protégé and the state’s health minister Himanta Biswa Sharma now leads the disgruntled lot and the clamour for a change of leadership may grow if the party performs poorly in the LS polls.

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