In his 13th year at the helm, Tarun Gogoi has broken the record of Bimala Prasad Chaliha as Assam’s longest serving chief minister and virtually decimated the opposition in three elections. The going has not been easy for Gogoi, 78, for more than a year now, but he says he has not wavered from his policy of giving space to his rivals within the Congress or beyond. The state is also grappling with illegal influx and statehood demands spurred by Telangana. Following are excerpts from an HT interview with Gogoi:
How is your government handling illegal influx, particularly from Bangladesh?
We do have this problem but the Bangladeshi issue is not as severe as is made out. Certain organisations and outfits rake it up before elections and forget it soon thereafter. Migrants living in flood and erosion-prone areas often shift for safety and livelihood but they are targeted as Bangladeshis and harassed. We have mechanisms to check infiltration and tribunals with the agreed upon cut-off date of March 25, 1971, for detection and deportation of illegal migrants.
You are also grappling with statehood movements as well as problems from within the party…
Assam is a multi-ethnic land, and history says various communities have made it their home over centuries. We have four official languages for as many regions and publish school textbooks in 14 languages. Many states were carved out of Assam to fulfil the aspirations of various communities. But today, our path to progress is together. As for internal issues, differences do occur within parties and are necessary in a democratic system. I belong to a generation that worked its way up but today’s generation is in a hurry. But then, one has to keep pace with the times and ensure it doesn’t affect governance.
There are reports that there’s dissent after you launched your son Gaurav in politics.
Politics is a career like any other. My son’s choice is his. I have no business to influence or coax him. In fact, I don’t know what he is up to most of the time. He has his own ideas of shaping his career and he needs to prove himself first. There is no reason for others to feel threatened.
There is virtually no opposition in the state. Does it make you confident ahead of the 2014 polls?
This is an unfortunate situation for Assam. A strong opposition is necessary to pressure the government into taking people-friendly measures. I fear becoming complacent and wish we had the kind of opposition that would challenge us to perform better – and for me to be younger in spirit.