RIP Tarun Gogoi: Politician who brought peace to Assam

RIP Tarun Gogoi: 'A different politician' who brought peace to Assam

Tarun Gogoi. Credit: PTI file photo.

Former Assam Chief Minister and veteran Congress man, Tarun Gogoi, who is often described as "a different politician" breathed his last at 5:34pm on Monday.

He was 86 and survived by his wife Dolly Gogoi, daughter Chandrima and son Gaurav.

Gogoi, who served as Chief Minister for three consecutive terms between 2001-2016 was put into ventilation on Saturday at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) where he was undergoing treatment for post-Covid complications. He tested positive for Covid-19 on August 25. On Monday morning, he was provided complete life support as most of his organs stopped functioning.

Assam health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who served as a cabinet minister under Gogoi's ministry before switching over to BJP in 2015 announced that Gogoi died due to multi-organ failure.

Gogoi's demise not only ended his decades-old political career but left behind a political legacy, which people irrespective of party affiliations described as something to be followed by present day politicians.

"He was a different politician. The accommodating nature Gogoi had even with those having political differences is something which amazed me. His capacity to promote communal harmony is something a diverse state like Assam will definitely miss," described Akhil Ranjan Dutta, a political observer and a teacher of Gauhati University.

Born in Rangajan tea estate in Sivasagar district (now Jorhat) in 1934, Gogoi was elected to Lok Sabha six times, first from Jorhat (1971-85) and later from Kaliabor (1991-96 and 1998-2002). His son Gaurav Gogoi is now a Lok Sabha member from Kaliabor.

Gogoi was elected as joint secretary of All India Congress Committee in 1976 during Indira Gandhi's tenure as Prime Minister. He also served as AICC general secretary (1985-90) under Rajiv Gandhi. Gogoi was inducted as union minister of state for food processing under PV Narasimha Rao's ministry between 1991-96. Gogoi was also a member of Congress Working Committee till his death. 

He has been a MLA from Titabor constituency in upper Assam's Jorhat district since 2001 when he first became the Chief Minister.

Bringing the militant groups like Ulfa, KLNLF, DHD to negotiating table for bringing peace to Assam, successful conduct of the 2007 National Games despite militant threats and constantly focussing on improving livelihoods at the villages severely hit by long militancy and annual floods are some of the major contributions during Gogoi's 15-year in power.

He, however, lost power to BJP and its allies in 2016 following a spell of dissidence led by his former cabinet colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma.

Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal on Monday remembered how Gogoi promptly accepted his invitation to attend the swearing in ceremony in 2016 despite facing a debacle in the elections. "I requested him to guide me as i didn't have the experience to run the state. He was prompt and promised me all assistance," Sonowal said. "His sense of humour, amiable and outspoken nature attracted everyone. He set high ethical values in the field of politics with his simple life-style and contributed profusely in strengthening democratic values in the country," Sonowal said in a message.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a tweet described Gogoi as a popular leader and a veteran administrator with political experience both in Assam and at the Centre. "My thoughts are with his family and supporters in this hour of sadness," Modi tweeted.

Congress leader, Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "For me, he was a great and wise teacher. I loved and respected him deeply. I will miss him. My love and condolences to Gaurav and the family."

His constant support for media freedom also earned praise from media fraternity in the state.

Gogoi was very active till he tested positive for Covid-19. He had convinced the Congress leaders to go ahead with an alliance with Maulana Badruddin Ajmal-led All India United Democratic Front with a target to defeat BJP in the Assam Assembly elections slated next year. The process, however, was stalled due to Gogoi's illness.

People, irrespective of party affiliations thronged the GMCH since Saturday when Gogoi became unconscious. Since Monday morning, many crowded the hospital with prayers on their lips and the crowd swelled by the evening when the news of his demise spread.