Tarun Gogoi: The Life and Times of the Longest Serving Chief Minister of Assam

Wednesday, 03 March 2021


Tarun Gogoi (1934-2020): The Life and Times of the Longest Serving Chief Minister of Assam

Barasha Das | November 28, 2020 14:13 hrs

Tarun Gogoi’s demise brought the entire state of Assam to a standstill – something that no one had imagined or expected. But as a Congress politician, the octogenarian Gogoi had the charisma to instil much love amongst the teeming lakhs that have thronged the city superseding all political barriers to pay their last respects to the longest-serving chief minister of Assam.  

G Plus dedicates this article as a tribute to the leader who had guided Assam out of the throes of economic and political darkness through 15 years of governance.

Early diaries

Tarun Gogoi, fondly called ‘Punakon’ by his parents, was born on 11th October, 1934 to Usha Gogoi and Kamal Gogoi at the Rongajan Tea Estate of Jorhat. He is the fourth of eleven siblings. He started school at Rongajan LP School and received his primary education at the No. 26 Rangajan Nimna Buniyadi Vidyalaya. 

Gogoi studied up to Class Vi in Jorhat Madrassa School and then moved on to Bholaguri High School. He passed his HSLC examination from Jorhat Government High School and did his graduation from JB College, Jorhat. He completed his LLB degree from Gauhati University.

Marriage and parenthood, “because that is also an important matter”

Gogoi had a flair for style. While he doted on starched cotton kurta and churi pyjamas during summers, winters were all about formal trousers, light sweater, a felt cap and his ‘favourite’ muffler.  

His marriage with Dolly Gogoi was an entirely traditional affair, where he gave his consent without even having a glimpse of her. However, Tarun Gogoi once fondly recalled, “Though I might not be called a fashion designer, yet during my marriage, I had specially designed my bride’s clothing.”

A dedicated family man, Gogoi loved shopping for his family and took time out to spend with them. He savoured Chinese flavours but his greatest affinity was towards Assamese traditional food.

He was the proud father of Chandrima, born in 1973 and, Gaurav Gogoi, born in 1982, who is now a member of parliament.

A doting father, he showered his kids with all attention and adulation despite being a politician par excellence.

A leader of the people, for the people, by the people

When Tarun Gogoi was asked about his aim by his teacher, he had promptly replied, “I will be the Prime Minister of India.” From a very young age he had a fascination to be a lawyer and a politician. Even as a scout and a social worker, with a stronger than usual determination to serve the people, he was always inclined to becoming a Congressman.

This charismatic and optimistic leader went on to lead the state of Assam for three consecutive terms. 

“As I was taking my oath, I realised that I was being given a huge responsibility. However, because of the immense confidence in myself, I knew that I would be able to turn around the tense situation that was prevailing in the state of Assam, at that point of time,” Gogoi had said during his first term.

A diligent leader, Tarun Gogoi had inherited a state plagued with insurgency and bankruptcy. Apart from being ravaged by militancy and the infamous ‘secret killings’, Assam was facing a deficit of Rs 780 crores, with many employees having been left unpaid for months together.

During Gogoi’s tenure the per capita income of Assam rose from Rs 13,059 in 2001-02,  to Rs 49,480 in 2014-15, while the state GDP stood at Rs 1,62,652 crores as against Rs 38,313 crores during the same period. By 2009 itself, Assam had recorded a budgetary surplus. 

“In 2001, the condition of our economy, security and development was very bad.... We could start development activities from 2005 onwards as the state was running under overdraft till then," Gogoi had said while listing his achievements in 2015.

As for tackling militancy in the state, Gogoi, apart from ordering stern action against the militants, also held numerous peace talks. He was pivotal in bringing the Bodo Liberation Tigers into the peace process and setting up the Bodoland Territorial Council under the amended provisions of the Sixth Schedule.

Further, as extra-judicial killings of ULFA family members and supporters stopped, peace talks were initiated by his government. As the ever prevailing sense of insecurity subsided gradually, it paved the way for development.

The idea of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam was initiated during Tarun Gogoi’s tenure and the stalwart himself donned the lawyer’s robe to oppose the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). 

He said, “The NRC, which was my baby, was based on the Assam Accord and did not differentiate between people on the basis of religion like this government is doing in the case of the CAA.”  

Tarun Gogoi’s political career at a glance
1968: Member of the Jorhat Municipal Board
1971: Elected to the 5th Lok Sabha
1976: Joint Secretary, 1977: Re-elected to 6th Lok Sabha for the second term
1983: Re-elected for his third term to the 7th Lok Sabha
1983: Joint Secretary, All India Congress Committee [AICC(I)]
1985: Becomes the General Secretary of AICC(I)
1986-90: President, Assam Pradesh Congress Committee [APCC(I)]
1991-93: Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Food
1993-95: Minister of State (Independent Charge), Ministry of Food Processing Industry
1997-98: Member of Assam Legislative Assembly
1998-99: Member of Committee on Government Assurances, Committee on External Affairs, and Member of the Consultative Committee of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas
1998: Re-elected to 12th Lok Sabha for his fifth term
1999: Re-elected to 13th Lok Sabha for his sixth term
1999-2000: Member of Committee of Railways
18th May, 2001: Became the Chief Minister of Assam, first term 
September, 2001: Member of Assam Legislative Assembly
11th May, 2006:  Re-elected member of Assam Legislative Assembly
14th May, 2006: Assumed the Office of Chief Minister of Assam for a second term
13th May, 2011: Re-elected member of Assam Legislative Assembly
18th May, 2011: Assumed the Office of Chief Minister of Assam consecutively for his third term


Gogoi’s contribution towards the sports infrastructure of Assam remains immeasurable

In February 2007, during Gogoi’s second term as chief minister, the 33rd National Games of India was held in Guwahati. From the Sarusajai Sports Complex to the Games Village, Gogoi can boast of major developments that has paved the way for setting up Assam as the sports capital of the country. The best of the equipments had been brought during his tenure. The National Games of 2007 is still remembered as one of the best ever hosted.

The humble Tarun Gogoi, who will always be remembered for his ever smiling face, was also conferred the prestigious Universal Smile Award by Operation Smile for his vision and dedication to establish Assam as the first cleft-free state in India by eradicating facial deformities.

Bidding adieu

On 26th August last, Gogoi tested positive for Covid-19. Although he had recovered, his sudden demise is reportedly due to post-Covid complications.

Hours before he breathed his last, his favourite musical pieces and the speeches of Rajiv Gandhi and Indira Gandhi were played to the octogenarian Congress leader to soothe his mind and for a final attempt for his recovery.

With 3 days of state mourning, Guwahati came to a halt as the beloved leader Tarun Gogoi was taken out for his final rites to Navagraha Crematorium. Lakhs of people thronged the streets to have a last glimpse of the Congress stalwart. Showers of flowers were bestowed on the decorated vehicle carrying his mortal remains for an inter-faith religious tour of the city before the cremation.

Source: -The Visionary: The life and rise of Tarun Gogoi, by Tinat Atifa Masood
        -Media sources

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