Former CM late Tarun Gogoi

Assam is already in the post-Tarun Gogoi era. In the passing away of the Congress stalwart, political observers feel the state may witness significant transformation on the electoral front now that the 2021 Assam Assembly polls are slated barely a few months away. A pro-Congress analyst may be of the view that the demise of the three-time Assam chief minister could unleash a sympathy wave in favour of the Congress in the upcoming polls.

Any election is a hard nut to crack. In India, it is an established practice and fact that any event occurring in the run-up to the polls, be it a political event or a family event, every party, almost religiously, endeavours to mint political capital out of the situation.

Talking in terms of wooing the voters, the death of a tall leader is, as a rule, followed by the party to which the deceased belonged, leaving no stone unturned to whip up sympathy among people to garner votes.

On this count, many observers opine the state Congress leadership made a blunder at the very outset by putting the wrong foot forward. In the fitness of things, the mortal remains of Gogoi should have been taken to his home district Jorhat for the performance of the last rites.

The members of the Gogoi family were deeply associated with Jorhat district, having won a countless number of elections from that district over the decades and also the adjoining Kaliabor Lok Sabha seat without break for long till date. The writing is on the wall loud and clear that had the last rites been performed in Gogoi’s home district, almost for sure, there would have been a sea of humanity with people in large number thronging from the districts of Golaghat, Sivasagar and Dibrugarh and also from Kaliabor. Such a strategy would surely have given a mighty boost to what is referred to in political phraseology as ‘sympathy votes’ for the Congress.

Unfortunately for the party, that was not to be. Among various weaknesses of the Congress, the one that often comes to the forefront is the lack of think-tank.

It is indeed a pity that the Assam Congress appears to have just two members with reasonable political sagacity. The first name that comes to mind is Pradyut Bordoloi – the man who has to his credit of being an MLA and also minister several times and presently serving as MP from Nagaon Lok Sabha constituency. Nagaon is not his home segment and all credit goes to him for coming out with flying colours against the steamrolling BJP juggernaut in the 2019 Parliamentary polls.

However, it is the Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi duo who can explain as to why a person of sound political experience and acumen like Pradyut Bordoloi is being kept in the twilight zone while some political blockheads are seemingly stealing the limelight. Sources within the state Congress reveal that a cold war within the state Congress and upmanship by some masterminds known for political impotency have blocked the ascent of Bordoloi while the Sonia-Rahul duo are blamed for lack of any knowledge about the political landscape of Assam.

The second person in the state Congress who seemingly appears to have sufficient political ingenuity is young Gaurav Gogoi, son of late Tarun Gogoi.

Gaurav made it to the Lok Sabha from Koliabor constituency in 2014 in the face of the sweeping Modi wave and won the race for the second time in 2019. Having actively participated in Lok Sabha debates from the word go, the Koliabor MP has displayed before the House the kind of matured political mettle that he is made of.

As of now, it is still not known as to how the Assam Congress leadership may be visualising the preparation of a roadmap to capitalise on the sympathy factor already in the air following the demise of Gogoi.

The pertinent question that arises on this count is if the present state Congress leadership with too many political imbeciles calling the shots while Rahul Gandhi’s buffoonery and jest crown the circus, be able to rise to the occasion and deliver. Will the state Congress be successful in translating the sympathy for the late CM into votes in the 2021 assembly polls?

For sure at the very first step, the party fumbled by organizing the last rites function in Guwahati and not in the late CM’s home district of Jorhat as pointed out. Presently, one may only hazard a guess if the use of the sympathy factor as a potent tool to garner votes has gone into the hard nuts of the present state Congress leadership. One may also wonder if this aspect has even dawned upon Rahul Gandhi and his advisers.

Irrespective of how many of the state Congress leaders from the realm of political poverty prove to be massive roadblocks, if full advantage is to be taken of the sympathy factor in terms of gaining votes, the best option appears to be to project Gaurav as the party’s chief ministerial candidate in the 2021 polls and also frame up somebody like Bordoloi as second-in-command

If on the other hand, the so-called ‘high command’ of the party insists on the present Congress leadership, a repetition of Bihar may very much be on the cards.

As of now, a fairly green pasture appears to be in store for the Congress.  It all depends on how the party leadership tackles the situation. Either it makes the landscape greener or makes it a dusty, dry and barren wasteland sans any trace of water. It also depends on how effectively and forcefully Congress succeeds in portraying the achievements of Gogoi during its electioneering.

In this respect, the leadership should not forget to point out as to how the former CM crushed several insurgent groups to shreds and ushered an era of peace in the state.  Among many other outstanding achievements, perhaps the revival of the totally bankrupt state exchequer after he took charge as CM may be most noteworthy.

Till Gogoi took charge as CM, the state government employees were nearly facing starvation in the absence of salary for a long period in the backdrop of an empty treasury. While the canvas provides very little space to furnish an elaborate list of the former CM’s achievements, one feels it may be appropriate for the state Congress to draw up a comprehensive (but not too long) list of achievements of the former CM and place the same convincingly and with high efficacy in the public domain.

In this respect, the Congress seems to be highly handicapped by its virtual lack of think-tank and extremely poor social media network. In comparison, BJP’s vast social media network may cause a Congressman as though he may be staring at day stars. May one ask as to what the present state Congress leadership had done over the last few years in this respect or to strengthen its organisational network from the grass-roots?

One wonders if the state Congress leadership is aware of the cobweb-like organisational network of the BJP, reinforced by the cadre-based massive RSS structure and further bolstered by Sangh Parivar units like the VHP, Bajrang Dal et al. It is indeed unfortunate that the ground reality does not reflect any positive move by state Congress president Ripun Bora and his associates on this count over the last few years.

In this respect, it was the cardinal duty of the Congress national leadership to provide relentless & uncompromising guidance, counsel and advice to keep the state party unit on its toes. However, that never appeared to be the case.

Definitely on this point party top brass cannot escape answerability for leaving the state unit high and dry sans any long-term plan. As of now, the state Congress appears more like a ship in the midst of a fathomless sea without a compass.

Talmizur Rahman

Talmizur Rahman is a Guwahati based senior journalist and commentator. He can be reached at rahmantmz5@gmail.com