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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Tarun Gogoi

"I never saw such resentment against a popular government in such a short time"


Judging by his daily activity and his smiling, unwearied face, no one can guess that Tarun Gogoi is 81. In ways more than one, he justifies his name. Gogoi, former Chief Minister of Assam, was in power for three consecutive terms. Talk to him and you realize that the defeat has not reduced his enthusiasm. A sincere and loyal leader of the Congress Party, Gogoi talks at length with TSI’s Monalisa Gogoi about a range of issues, starting from the performance of the new government to the future of the Congress Party.
TSI | Issue Dated: August 5, 2016, New Delhi
Tags : Tarun Gogoi | AIIMS |

The newly elected government has increased VAT and this has drawn widespread protests. Several organisations have also lent their support to the protest. But according to BJP, they are compelled to take this decision as they inherited a debt of Rs.12,000 crore from the outgoing government. Your reaction?

This government came to power on the basis of false promises. They do not think or care for the poorer and weaker sections of the society. This is the government that only cares for the industrialists, capitalists and businessmen. Most of the areas of the state are now under devastating flood. Affected people are facing the shortage of essential items like food and cloth. Now, put things in perspective. Is this the time to increase VAT? Specially when there is a sudden and huge spike in prices. They talk about debt.  When we had come to power for the first time, we also inherited a huge debt. We will present a white-paper regarding this false allegation soon.

The Central Government has decided to open as many as 12 oil fields in Assam for the private bidders. What is your reaction on this decision?

I have to repeat my same comment that this government is hankering after power. For power, they can do everything. Their party, their leaders, all are sponsored by the industrialists and corporates. So, after coming to power, they have forgotten their promise. Now, they are saying that the exploration of these oil fields are not economically viable. But, at the same time, they told that these small oil fields can meet the need and that from these fields as much as 23 million metric tons can be produced. This huge quantity proves that these oil fields are not so small as not be explored. Private companies and industrialists have no attachment with the people of Assam. Once they realize that these fields are productive, then they will explore and they do not think about the benefit of our state. They will look for their own benefit. Our party has been strongly protesting the decision to bid these fields.

What would you like to say regarding the proposed site of the establishment of AIIMS? People of Middle Assam have demanded that the AIIMS should be established at Roha. One protestor was gunned down even as the government went on and handed the site at Changsari under Jalukbari constituency for the construction.

I personally support the idea that AIIMS should be established at Roha, because Roha is the middle point of the state. There are many super-specialty hospitals in Guwahati. People can easily access healthcare and treatment facility here. We believe in the all-round development of the state. We do not want Guwahati-centric or rather merely an urban-centric development.

Dimasa, Karbi, Moran and other councils were formed by the Congress Government. But now, all these councils have joined BJP. Most of the members of the town committees and district councils have also joined BJP, which de facto controls these councils now. What is your comment on this?

It is only because of the nasty politics of BJP. They threatened people that if they do not join BJP, they will not get any financial support from the government. Threatening and blackmailing are the two main mottoes of this party. A few days back, Karbi Autonomous Council members joined BJP, but this is the same party who had demanded enquiry against the corruption of council members. The party leaders have a separate viewpoint. According to them, when a person is a member of Congress or any other political party other than BJP, they are treated as the most corrupted, but as soon as they join BJP, they become as holy as the water of Ganges. This is their philosophy.

One of your MLAs, Manshing Rongpi, has left the party and joined BJP. According to a source, more MLAs from your party will join BJP. Do you think more MLAs will leave the party leaving Congress weaker than it is now?

No, I do not think that more MLAs will join BJP. Ups and downs are a part of politics. BJP is trying to buy the MLAs with crores of money. This type of nasty politics can be possible with BJP only. Manshing had protested strongly against the Central Government’s decision of giving Schedule Tribe hills status to Bodo people, and now he is a BJP member. The people who left our party till now were not loyal to the party. We don’t regret this. Corrupt people are leaving our party because BJP threatened that they will start enquiry against them. But I think no more MLAs will go to BJP.

Sarbananda Sonowal wants to make Assam a corruption-free state. Do you think it is possible in the present scenario?

I welcome his attitude but I fail to comprehend how it is possible to make Assam a corruption-free state when he is surrounded by some of the most corrupt people the state has ever seen?

Gautam Roy, a minister of your government, openly declared that the Party lost the election because of you. He also alleged that you don’t take anything seriously, and that most of the time you react with the word “Bad Diyahe” (leave it).

When people realize that they have committed mistakes, they always look for excuses. This is human nature. When he was in power, I was the right person. I am no more, apparently. So, I do not want to comment on that.

Your government was criticized because of the spike in the cases of the poaching of rhinos. There are allegations that some of your ministers were also involved in the act. Three rhinos have been killed till now within a month and a half of this government. What’s your take?

There is a huge market for rhino-horns in the foreign countries. People can earn crores of rupees. Naturally, when such money is involved, poachers use cutting edge technology. Our forest department lacks modern weapons and technology. When we were in power, Central Minister Prakash Javadekar assured us of a package for the security of Kaziranga, but it never showed up. Lack of manpower only aggravated this situation. Without proper intervention by the central government, it will be difficult to control this menace.

The post of APCC president remains vacant after the death of Anjan Dutta. When will this vacancy be filled?

AICC will decide about this in due time, but I think they are not going to take any decision in haste. It will take time.

What according to you is the reason behind the defeat of Congress in the last assembly elections?

Anti-incumbency played a major role because in democracy, people want change. No ruling party has ruled for four consecutive terms, with some exceptions here and there. Moreover, BJP had polarized the electorate, aside from making false promises, which they have no plans to keep. But I must say that in my long political career, I have never seen such resentment against a popular government within such a short duration after its formation. It is really unfortunate that the people of Assam fell victim to BJP’s cruel tactics.

What will you say about the demand of ST status by the six communities namely Ahom, Chutia, Moarn, Motok, Tea tribes and Koch?

Yes, we do support the demand of these communities. It will help the people of these communities in development as they will be on an equal footing to compete with other people. The present government had promised such a thing, but it appears that they are dithering on this promise as well.

Do you think your government could have done more than it managed to do in all these years you were in power?

When our government came to power in 2001, the law and order situation was uncontrollable. ULFA, BLT, DHD, UPDS, AANLA and all sorts of banned organisations were very active militarily. Some innocent youths lost their lives because of secret killings. Government employees never used to get their salaries in time. Employees were driven to suicide. Our government brought economic stability. Roads and bridges were constructed; school and college buildings were rebuilt. There was time when people could hardly imagine buying a two wheeler, but four wheelers have become an essential part of the life now. This indicates that the standard of life improved significantly during our reign. This is because of the improvement in their economic wellbeing. We have provincialized schools and colleges. We have organized National Games and South Asian Games, as well as a number of international tournaments. The number of hospitals, engineering colleges, universities that are now operating is way more than what was there when we came to power. But I must admit that we could not solve all the problems. We tried our best and managed to solve about 70% of the problems.

Do you think after five years, Congress will again come to power? If yes, will you again lead the party and become Chief Minister?

Yes. Congress will come again, but I will not necessarily lead the party. I will remain active in politics till the last breath, however.

Are you happy with your present status?

We all must have some or other commitment in life, and should try to fulfill those commitments. Ups and downs are integral parts of the life. We should be ready for any scenario. I am happy.

When people criticize you, how do you react?

Healthy criticism inspires me to work. I never take offence when people criticize me. I believe when you are in public life, you will have to keep yourself ready for any kind of criticism.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017