As in other parts of the country, the quality of political discourse in Assam too has been going down over the years. This was particularly so in the run up to the bitterly contested assembly elections this time. Political leaders and candidates did not think twice before hitting rivals below the belt. The war of words occasiolly degenerated into clashes between supporters of contenders. Mocking and derogatory attacks were made on the prime minister, the chief minister and other ministers and politicians. Even the Assam Governor was not spared. The muck-raking, no-holds-barred battle played out on the media in full view of a dismayed people. So it was a relief to see a positive message going out during the swearing-in of the new government on Tuesday last. As incoming chief minister Sarbanda Sonowal took oath with other ministers, his predecessor Tarun Gogoi beamed from the dais with other dignitaries. Gogoi was there on the invitation of Sonowal and other senior BJP leaders who had visited him at his residence after the election results. In their speeches, both Prime Minister rendra Modi and Sonowal referred to Gogoi with warmth and respect befitting his stature. The gesture from both sides mitigated somewhat the rancor over the polls. Hopefully, some of this broad-mindedness would carry over to the assembly sessions as well. The debates there will no doubt be sharp-edged and full of sparks, but all sides need to hold on to political decorum. Assam is not an easy state to govern; quite a few of its communities co-exist uneasily, struggling for their rights and political space. The only way to resolve real or potential conflicts is to sit down and talk openly in a spirit of give and take. This calls upon people’s representatives and leaders to set the tone of debate with sobriety and etiquette. But before they get around to that, they need to accord each other proper regard. This is something the entire country is yearning to see in Parliament as well. The confrontatiol politics playing out in our highest lawmaking body for over a decade has cast a chilling effect on persol relations between politicians of different parties. It is high time they find common grounds to reach out again to each other.
food for thought