A peculiarly regressive politics is holding Assam hostage, a politics which obfuscates and indulges in doublespeak. Since it refuses to take a clear, unequivocal stand on major issues, it offers no vision of progress that the people can believe in. This is making political discourse in the State poorer, with Assembly elections barely a year away. And all the major political parties are equally guilty for this sorry state of affairs. The ruling Congress already seems to have cast a pall with a clearly defensive strategy to cling to power by hook or crook. This has come out clearly in Tarun Gogoi’s ministry reshuffle exercise, which had political expediency written all over it. With the Congress High Command itself on the backfoot after the party’s electoral reverses and Rahul Gandhi taking a mysterious sabbatical, the duo of Anjan Dutta and Tarun Gogoi are having a free run. The writing on the wall is that there will be no respite from the politics of negativity, administrative drift, public corruption, as well as lack of transparency and accountability bedeviling the State. Its people want an end to all this, they desperately seek change — which is happening in some other parts of the country. But the picture turns dismal here when other political altertives are put under the searchlight. For other political parties too seem to be afflicted by the disease plaguing the Congress.
Take the BJP, for instance. In the tiol scene, the saffron party set the agenda in the second half of year 2013 itself. Taking the bull by the horns, it decided to fight the general elections under rendra Modi. Instead of being saddled with a divisive figure as Modi was accused to be, the BJP played him as a trump card to come back to power in spectacular fashion. It has also taken the trouble to clearly enunciate its positions on key issues, helping voters make up their minds. That trend has been continued with Modi’s penchant for speaking his mind. If Aruchal Pradesh was called a potential ‘powerhouse’ of the country in the Vajpayee regime, Prime Minister Modi reiterated that position when he visited the frontier state recently. When he spoke of the need to exploit its vast hydropower potential, he made it clear where he stands on the mega dam issue. And it is well known that diplomacy in the South Asian neighbourhood figures highly in Modi’s scheme of things, after he invited SAARC leaders to his swearing in. But what does Assam BJP do when questioned about mega dams or the land deal with Bangladesh? It acts coy and evasive or speaks in contradictory voices. And when the BJP’s vision document for Delhi labeled the Northeast people as ‘immigrants and migrants’, its Assam unit looked the other way in deep embarrassment.
Even the intense speculation about Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma joining the BJP ties the party up into knots. State BJP president Siddhartha Bhattacharyya first said that he has no objections to ‘anyone wishing to join the party, if he believes in its ideals’. Taking his cue, party leaders like Rajen Gohain and Prasanta Phukan went so far as to enthuse that Sarma’s induction will pave the way for Assam BJP to meet its ‘Mission 84’ target in the 2016 Assembly elections. So when the State BJP president later dismisses this as hypothetical, that he has ‘no views of his own about the matter’ — it merely heightens the confusion. So can the people of the State think seriously about a third altertive, as the denizens of Delhi have done so resoundingly? Sadly, the prospects seem hardly encouraging about another party in the State posing a credible challenge to the Congress and the BJP soon. The AGP continues to meander in political wilderness, despite seeking to find its way out by involving thinkers and prominent citizens. Its revamped leadership speaks about bringing change, but the dichotomy between its ideals and its leaders’ actions do not inspire confidence. As for KMSS leader Akhil Gogoi who threatens to do in Assam what the AAP did in Delhi, the problem is again his shifting stance on issues. If he campaigned for the BJP and other parties against the Congress in 2014, he is now hobnobbing with the AIUDF even as the AGP talks about supporting the KMSS in a ‘Third Front’. Politics in Assam thus continues to be a treacherous quicksand, leaving voters clutching desperately for credible altertives.