DATELINE Guwahati /Wasbir Hussain
The Assam Congress seems to be running short of ideas on all fronts. This is not to say that the fractured opposition in the State is brimming with workable plans to improve the quality of life of people living in Assam. The regiol parties cannot even decide whether to float a ‘third front’ of rag-tag regiol parties or form a new political party that can emerge as the altertive ‘third force’ that is both anti-Congress and anti-BJP. I am talking of these things because elections to the 126-member State Assembly are due next year.
Take a look at the Congress, led by the veteran Tarun Gogoi, who is on the verge of completing 15 years as Chief Minister: first, despite dozens of MLAs indulging in dissident activity that was eating up the party from within, Mr Gogoi sat tight for more than two years and did not effect a ministerial reshuffle. When things went almost beyond control, he did bring about a shake up of his Cabinet by dropping a few ministers accused of ‘non-performance.’ What surprised most were their replacements because Gogoi inducted people in their seventies and eighties to shoulder the responsibility of departments as Education and Revenue.
What Gogoi did within a month of that so-called reshuffle was both amusing and shocking. He brought in several of the dropped ministers back as his ‘Advisers’ with Cabinet rank. Pradyut Bordoloi who was dropped as Education minister was appointed ‘Adviser’ on Education and Nilomoni Sen Seka, who was dropped as Agriculture minister got in now as ‘Adviser’ on Agriculture. Well, the mast-mast man from Barak Valley, Gautam Roy, who too was dropped, has become ‘Adviser’ to Barak Valley affairs!
It is another matter that Mr Gogoi decided to rehabilitate his ousted ministers and keep them happy on an election year instead of appointing professiols as advisers. What needs to be taken note of is that by bringing in former ministers as ‘Advisers’, the Chief Minister has indirectly put a question mark on the capability of the present ministers, particularly holding charge of Education and Agriculture, to run the departments of their own. If the earlier Education and Agriculture ministers were removed because they were ineffective, how is it that they have now been found suitable to ‘advise’ the Government on the running of the same departments? Answers to such complex and highly technical questions are available only with the Chief Minister!
The turn of events in Assam gives an impression as if the major political parties are competing with each other in goofing things up. If the Congress is running out of ideas, the contender to grab power in 2016, the BJP, has decided to ‘mistakenly’ describe people of the North-east as ‘immigrants’ in their Delhi poll vision document. This description, for which the BJP top-brass had apologised, has been greatly resented by the people here and has given the opposition a handle to beat the BJP with. The BJP has also decided to go ahead with ratifying the Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh that will see some Assam land being exchanged with Bangladesh. These are issues that are being strongly opposed by groups in Assam, things that have put the Assam unit of the BJP in a tight spot.
The Congress, of course, cannot hope to win the coming elections by banking on the mistakes the BJP could commit or the ibility of the regiol entities to put forward a solid altertive as a ‘third force’ rather than a loose ‘third front.’ If the voters here disapprove the ‘high command’ culture, they would not find the Aam Admi Party (AAP) any different if it were to emerge and contest the 2016 polls in Assam because their members here would have to look for direction from Kejriwal & Co. And, with Mr Tarun Gogoi once again declaring himself as the chief ministerial candidate for 2016 (he said he would not only contest again but lead the party at the polls), things are bound to heat up in the days ahead, adding to the confusion, and providing fodder for the television pundits (including this writer) who think they have an answer for everything political, or apolitical!