The Gogoi-Saikia Spat: Everything Seems Wrong Within Assam Congress
GUWAHATI: The Grand Old Party of India seems to be shooting in all directions, especially in Assam, with its prominent leaders speaking in different tongues in the aftermath of the publication of the final draft of NRC on 31st August, 2019. While the apparent trigger happens to be the final draft of NRC, a deeper analysis of the happenings within the party points to a struggle for absolute power within the state unit. The diagnosis is clear: the Congress party went into a tailspin from the thrashing it received at the hands of the BJP-led coalition in Assam in the recent Lok Sabha elections in the state. Rather than regrouping, the party is divided into various groups and factions and a few leaders including the former chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, and leader of opposition in the state assembly, Debabrata Saikia openly having a verbal spar on the topic of the usefulness of the NRC document.
While the leaders are in an open quarrel mode with each other, the question that comes to one’s mind relates to the internal health of the party in Assam. What actually ails the party in Assam? Is it actually the perceptiveness of two or a few leaders about the efficacy of the NRC exercise or is it actually jockeying for absolute control of the party? To a seasoned observer, the shenanigans is nothing but furthering own interest at the cost of the party’s interest in the medium and long run. Also, hidden in the episode is the feeling amongst some Congress leaders that it can not dislodge the BJP in 2021 from power in the state and therefore, washing dirty linen in the public would be one way of staying busy in a non-election year.
Tarun Gogoi is a seasoned politician but his recent utterances betray a kind of restlessness not seen before. To trace its origin, one has to go back to his behind-the-scene comments prior to the Lok Sabha elections in Assam that Congress was not averse to tying up with AIUDF for the elections, which was construed as making his son, Gaurav Gogoi’s election passage easier at the cost of other candidates of the party. Many Congress leaders, in private, expressed dismay at this utterance of Tarun Gogoi and after the election results were declared, knives were out of the kitchen drawers to be wielded at each other. With the top leadership of the party in Delhi in complete disarray, the internal discipline within the party went for a toss with many marginal players also taking pot shots at each other to the glee of BJP and its allies. The fact that Congress has failed to seize the initiative from the BJP in the wake of the current economic slowdown in the country and the state points to a complete breakdown of its thought process and its desire to give an able leadership to the people of Assam.
The party needs younger leaders and the likes of Tarun Gogoi should give guidance to the next generation rather than fight them. After being at the helm of affairs for 15 long years in the state, the former CM can and should steer the party out of the present rut and inertia. But instead, a drama is being played out before the TV cameras every evening thereby making people of the state wonder: does this Grand Old Party really want to give a fight to the BJP and its allies in 2021 or is it a walkover in 2019 itself?
We have not heard the last words on this episode yet and once a new president for the state unit is announced at the end of the year, another bout is expected to begin. While the current round is more like a practice bout where the punches are being thrown more in the air than at opponents’ faces, the next bout will be for real and only time will tell, who gets bruised more. At the end of the day, a sad state of affairs in a party that literally decimated its opposition not long ago in 2011 in Assam.