Former chief minister (CM) of Assam Tarun Gogoi has thrown down the gauntlet to incumbent CM Sarbananda Sonowal for a debate on the issue of development.
Addressing newspersons at the Jorhat Press Club on Sunday, Gogoi reacted to statements made by Sonowal at poll rallies here where the latter alleged that during Gogoi’s successive three terms (15 years) and during earlier Congress terms in the state there was “hardly any development to speak of”.
Coming down heavily on Sonowal, Gogoi listed the development works in Jorhat district as well as the state which included the Jorhat Medical College and Hospital, National Institute of Design, Assam Agricultural University, Jorhat Science Centre and Planetarium, Chaolung Siu-Ka-Pha Samannay Kshetra, Rajiv Gandhi Cooperative University, Rajiv Gandhi Petroleum Institute (Sivasagar), Brahmaputra Cracker and Polymer Limited (BCPL) in Dibrugarh.
He further stated that 80 per cent of work vis-à-vis the Dholiya-Sadiya Bridge as well as the Bogibeel Bridge was completed under his government’s tenure.
“The new Secretariat building in Dispur from where Sonowal now governs Assam and the place where he resides – the Brahmaputra Guest House – has all been built by the Congress government,” he remarked.
Gogoi further questioned Sonowal on the status of the Jorhat-Majuli-Lakhimpur Bridge, the foundation stone of which was laid with much fanfare by union road transport, highways and shipping minister Nitin Gadkari three years back on the eve of Assembly polls.
Responding to Sonowal’s statement on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “who represented Assam for more than two decades and hardly did anything significant for the state,” Gogoi said all big projects referred earlier were undertaken by him (read Manmohan Singh).
“I invite Sonowal to a debate on the issue of development and will expose his lies then,” Gogoi said.
The former CM of Assam also lashed out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for failing to fulfil his pre-poll promises. “He talks more, work less. His schemes – Make in India, Startups, Digital India, and demonetisation are total failures and GST was flawed,” fumed Gogoi.
He also took BJP to task for trying to bring in and settle Hindu Bangladeshis. “They criticise us for going soft on illegal migrants but it is during our time that more than 80 per cent of fencing work along the Indo-Bangladesh border was completed,” he said.
Terming Sonowal a “puppet” of Modi, Gogoi said that bringing in CAB has made NRC a “meaningless exercise”.
The Sonowal-led government was further criticised for not increasing the wages of tea garden workers to Rs 350 as had been reportedly proposed by the Wage Board.
He alleged that the Sonowal government had come under pressure from the tea planters’ lobby and asked the BJP government to “come clean” on the matter.
He also said that touching the feet of elders and teachers was not wrong but “Sonowal had bowed down and touched the feet of Arun Jaitley and other Central leaders which is not a part of Assamese culture”.
In another press conference here, BJP spokesperson Jayanta Malla Baruah, who is also the Assam Tourism Development Corporation’s (ATDC) chairman, refuted Gogoi’s charges against Sonowal.
Baruah said that in the past three years of Sonowal government, the wage of tea garden workers has been increased by Rs 30.
Baruah also shot down Gogoi’s criticism of Sonowal in regard to touching feet which he said was a “part of Indian culture”. “Not touching feet is prevalent in Arabian culture which Gogoi may be following,” he said.