Tarun Gogoi, the three-time chief minister of Assam, who passed away on Monday evening, was one of northeast India's tallest statesmen who changed the face of Assam from a terrorism-ravaged state to a land with opportunities for trade, business and economy during his 15-year reign. A six-time member of parliament from Assam in between 1971 to 2001, former Union Minister Gogoi (86), was away from Assam politics for long until in 2001 Assembly polls when he was asked to lead the party against the influential Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) government led by Prafulla Kumar Mahanta.
When other leaders were hesitant, Gogoi led the Congress to a victory and became chief minister for the first time in 2001, leading the state at a very difficult time when terrorism was at its peak and brutal killings dominated the headlines. The longest-serving chief minister of Assam, Gogoi took the helm of affairs of the state in 2001 when the state was also facing a serious financial crisis even as the state government did not have the required money to pay salaries of government employees on time.
Between 2001 to 2016, the 15 years he was in power, Gogoi scripted history by taming the decades-old insurgency as terror outfits and militants came forward to talk with the government. Under his leadership, the economic growth accompanied by peace boosted Assam to accelerate its all-round development during the subsequent years. He dealt with the occasional flare-up like the 2012 Kokrajhar and other ethnic violence in the state with an iron hand.
In 2010, the top industrialists and corporate leaders of India came on a visit to Assam before the industrialisation, specially the medium and micro industries started to revive while in 2016 Assam organised the all important South Asian Games.
Born in 1934 to Dr Dr Kamaleshwar Gogoi and Usha Gogoi, Tarun Gogoi spent his childhood in a tea garden in Jorhat district where his father was a physician. On his birth, his grandmother predicted that he would be a famous person. He proved her right.
"Gogoi, a trained lawyer, initially practiced law but was equally getting active in politics. He was handpicked by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to lead the Youth Congress in 1971," political observer Nitin Talukdar told IANS.
He said: "In 1972 he got married to Dolly Gogoi. They have two children. Daughter Chandrima is settled in the USA and son Gaurav, is a two-time (2014 and 2019) member of Parliament from Kaliabor seat in Nagaon district."
Talukdar said that as a close confidant of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Gogoi was Union Minister twice in between 1991-1993 and 1993 to 1995, besides being a six-time Lok Sabha member from Jorhat and Kaliabor parliamentary constituencies.
Another political analyst Apurba Kumar Kashyap said that Gogoi was not only an undisputed and down-to-earth leader in the Congress in Assam, but across the northeastern region he enjoyed immense respect and popularity due to his simplicity and political experience.
Bharatiya Janata Party's historic victory in the 2016 Assam assembly elections saw the astute leader's exit as Chief Minister but he remained the tallest leader of Assam politics till he breathed his last on Monday evening at the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)