By ruling Assam for fourteen years at a stretch, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has scripted a record. He has broken the record set by former State Chief Minister Bimala Prasad Chaliha. Gogoi is one among the few in the country who have been elected as chief ministers for three terms in a row. When viewed from that angle, Gogoi is the luckiest Chief Minister in Assam. But, they rightly say, we live in deeds, not in years. If one is on the job of evaluating Gogoi’s performance as the State Chief Minister in the past 14 years, this saying will fit him like a glove. A pertinent question is: In such a long stint as the Chief Minister of Assam, what has Gogoi done for the State? And if this question is used as the yardstick to evaluate the deeds of Gogoi in the past 14 years, his deeds fall far short of the length of his stint so far. Such a poor performance card is sure to paint a grim picture of him as a Chief Minister. He, however, knows well how to paint a rosy picture of him. When asked by circles concerned as to what he has done for the state in the past 14 years, Gogoi is prompt enough to opt for a direct comparison between his performance card and that of former State Chief Minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta. He might be well aware of the fact that since he cannot paint a rosy picture of him with his poor performance card, he has to paint a picture of him which is relatively better than that of Mahanta. He has chosen the performance card of Mahanta as his ‘benchmark’ which he has to scale so as to get an ‘escape route’.
Yes, cash crunch marked Mahanta’s tenures as the Chief Minister in the state. His government was not in a position to pay salaries to the employees for months together. Social life was panicky writ large because of ‘secret killings’. That was the failure of Mahanta for which the business community successfully ‘voted him out’. One, however, has to keep in mind that for that situation Mahanta was not the only person to blame. Mahanta was running the government of a regiol party in the state when there was another party at the Centre. And the two parties were seriously out of sync, and the cash crunch was its fallout. However, Mahanta’s government alone was not responsible for the ‘secret killings’ in the state. It was a game–plan of the government at the Centre which made Mahanta execute that. Chief Minister Gogoi is not oblivious to such facts. This was why he had to stop short of punishing the ‘secret killers’ after coming to power in 2001 even though that had been one of his promises before the people of the state in the run–up to Assembly elections that year. If one is not so tall, one can prove oneself taller by standing near a dwarf. This is what Gogoi is doing by opting for a comparison between his performance card with that of Mahanta. In the past ten years, the Congress was in power at the Centre. Since Dispur and New Delhi were in sync, fund flow to the State was never a problem during that period. Due to economic liberalization, accompanied by the policy of free trade, the economy of the country was redolent of some kind of affluence, and that ebled Gogoi to pay salaries of the employees regularly. The huge amounts of funds that kept flowing to the state under the PMGSY were more than enough to blacktop rural roads. ‘108’, ‘Adoroni’, ‘102’ etc., in the state health sector were launched with huge amounts of central funds released under the NRHM. The schools in the state look what they are today mainly due to the huge amounts of central funds that poured into the state under the Sarba Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA). The colleges in the state were also given a face–lift with the funds released by the University Grant Commission (UGC). Barring all works done under the patroge of the Centre, what else has Gogoi done? Has he brought peace back to the state? Has he rooted out insurgency? Has he been able to put an end to ethnic clashes and killings? Has he been able to put an end to the inter–state border skirmishes? These are some areas in which Gogoi was on record giving repeated assurances to the people, without meeting them.
Promises like erecting beautiful structures at the site of cremation of maestro Bhupen Hazarika and Siu– Ka–Pha Samanvoy Kshetra, construction of Madhabdeva Kalakshetra, setting up of a cooperative university and a technical university in the state, setting up of plastic and textile parks in the state, and medical colleges at Diphu, gaon, Dhubri etc., keep piling up. In many places in the state, foundation stones depicting such assurances cannot be seen due to outgrowth of weeds. On the flood and erosion front, the Gogoi government failed to provide even the minimum succour to the affected people. The agrarian economy in the state has totally collapsed. The government has utterly failed to solve the problem of power shortage. Gogoi is well aware of the fact that in the run–up to the 2016 Assembly elections in the state, the voters will ask him about the fate of his promises on the development front. In order to divert the attention of the people of the state form his government’s failure, Gogoi is now offensive against the seven–month–old BJP–led government at the Centre, making attempts to expose its failure. The ‘pratara birodhi divas’ observed in Guwahati on Saturday bears testimony to this. Can he befool the people of the state yet again?