In politics, public memory is mercifully short. If we recall the truimphant Tarun Gogoi of 2011, what we are witnessing now will appear surreal. But the pathetic exercise in Dispur seems to be the tural course of things, such has been the sea change in the country’s politics. Has the Congress in Assam begun its endgame with 2016 looming large over it? With only about a year left for the Assembly elections, the Tarun Gogoi government should have been working overtime to complete its development agenda. But what it is now busy with is the tiresome drama of ministry reshuffle, with all ministers putting in their papers at Koidhara on Monday. The Chief Minister will send the resigtion letters of those he wants out to the Governor, induct some new faces while chopping and changing the departments of some others. But if a new ministry takes oath by 23 January as expected, only twelve months will be left for the new ministers to implement the schemes in the last budget left with the Chief Minister to table in the Assembly. By the time the ministers become familiar with their new departments, it will be high time for them to go to their constituencies and gear up for the coming battle of the ballot. With the BJP and AIUDF emerging as major players in the state, can it be expected that the new ministers will focus on their work in the short time left to them or worry about their political survival after 2016?
It is thus clear that this ministry reshuffle is not in the interests of the people of the state. Rather it is the denoument of a long drawn out dissidence that has wracked the Congress and its government for the last two years. And during those two years, administration in the state has ground to a halt so that literally nothing is getting done on the ground. When other states are jostling for pole position to take advantage of the developmental initiative by the rendra Modi government at the Centre, Assam is nowhere in the race. Had Tarun Gogoi the courage to bite the bullet and reshuffle his ministry two years back when dissidence was raising its head, he would have been in a stronger position by now. After all, he was the hattrick winning Chief Minister with the longest time at the helm in the state’s political history. There were then demands to drop inefficient and corrupt ministers, and revive the development agenda that was beginning to sputter. But Gogoi failed to measure up, and the opportunity passed. The internecine fight within the Congress government saw the sacking of three ministers. Meanwhile the BJP stormed back to power at the Centre on its own steam, winning several other states and now eyeing Assam to add to its kitty.
That the votebank of the Congress has begun to erode during Tarun Gogoi’s watch became clear when it maged to send only three members to the Lok Sabha in the general elections last year. With the Congress High Command hamstrung by the party’s debacle at the hustings, the Assam Pradesh Congress has been slow off the mark while saffron parties are beginning to make inroads in the state. The new PCC President Anjan Dutta has tried to take a pro–active role, adding his weight to the Chief Minister’s attempt to revamp his ministry. But will this be Tarun Gogoi’s trump card or merely a tired shuffle of old faces who have failed voters miserably in the last few years? Will this move add further fuel to the dissidence eating away at the inrds of the ruling party? The picture will become clearer by the time the Assembly elections come around next year, for voters in Assam as elsewhere, are impatient and crying out for development. If that development comes from a change of guard, then the Congress will only have itself to blame for squandering its large mandate. And it will be Tarun Gogoi to shoulder the blame, reshuffle or no reshuffle.