Defending the indefensible
Forced to defend his indefensible record of governce in the last 15 years, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is stooping to new lows every other day as the assembly elections loom ever closer. During his one-day visit to the State to kick-start the BJP campaign, Prime Minister rendra Modi on Tuesday threw down the gauntlet asking the Congress to furnish its performance record in 15 years ruling Assam before holding him to account for the NDA government’s ‘15 months in power at the Centre’. Gogoi’s response was bizarre even by his standards — he first remarked that Modi should ask Himanta Biswa Sarma for the Congress government’s accounts, and then demanded that the BJP should come clean with the Atal Behari Vajpayee government’s track record as well before daring to question his government’s record. This is nothing but ducking the issue in outrageous fashion. Why should Himanta Biswa furnish the Gogoi regime’s record if he is no longer in the government and the ruling party? It is obvious that Gogoi is yet to get over his one-time lieutent and troubleshooter switching to the BJP. And why should Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government be dragged into this matter when it was followed by ten years of Congress-led UPA’s rule at the Centre? Gogoi may seek to muddy the waters with such obfuscation, but a decade is a long time for a party in power at the Centre and the State to implement its agenda and improve the people’s lot. If it has miserably failed to do so, it will have to be ready to answer voters’ queries when the day of reckoning arrives with the elections. In the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s public displays of anger at the country’s problems fooled nobody — for the very simple reason that his party had two successive terms in power to address these problems.
In a desperate attempt to deflect criticism for its non-performance and point fingers elsewhere, the Tarun Gogoi government has lately let loose a propaganda campaign stunning in its negativity and lack of taste. Making Prime Minister Modi the scapegoat for all the ills and under-development afflicting the State, this campaign seems destined to be headed for the same end as Rahul Gandhi’s outbursts in 2014. The ruling party even brought out full page advertisements in newspapers on the day of Modi’s visit; it had a set of questions to corner the Modi government for ostensibly depriving and squeezing funds to the State. Even if for arguments sake the allegations levelled in the ad are accepted as true, the obvious question is — why did the Tarun Gogoi government fail Assam in the eight-and-half years before the Modi-led BJP came to power, when the Congress government at the Centre was supposedly so favourably disposed towards the State? Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister represented Assam in the Rajya Sabha, and still does so presently. It remains a moot point as to how many packages he announced for the State actually came to pass and benefited people on the ground. Thanks to the then Montek Singh Ahluwalia-led Planning Commission, Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi got much leeway in tabling budgets for the State year after year. Had Gogoi accomplished much in those supposedly favourable years, he would not have to repeatedly duck furnishing a White Paper despite promising many times to do so, the last as recently as December 2015. The long-term problems of flood and erosion, Bangladeshi influx and non-implementation of the Assam Accord continued to bedevil Assam when the Congress government of Assam used to get a sympathetic hearing in New Delhi. Assam continued to be cheated of about Rs 10,000 crore of oil royalty when the UPA was in power, even as the then rendra Modi-led Gujarat government had the gumption to move the Supreme Court against the Centre to claim its dues. So when Chief minister Gogoi seeks Prime Minister Modi’s intervention to direct oil PSUs to change the royalty payment mechanism for Assam, as Gujarat is now getting, he is fooling nobody. For sure, the Northeast states have an issue with the Centre about funding under special states category, but mixing politics with it while ignoring changing economic realities, will only harm Assam in the long run.