Toward the end of this second tenure, Tarun Gogoi would often do a Muhammad Ali to claim he was Assam's best chief minister. Many found his assertion arrogant.
But with Congress scoring a hat-trick of electoral victory by sweeping Mandate 2011 — the tally of 72 was 19 more than in 2006 — Gogoi's arrogance has metamorphosed to 'confidence'. Most, even his adversaries, now tend to agree he's the best.
Apart from Gogoi's clean image and charisma — he is often alluded to an earthy gaonburah (village chief) who has the last word and the last laugh — what is believed to have worked in Congress' favour is his credo of 'peace begets development'. See pics
The pace of urban and rural development in Assam has been unprecedented since 2001, when the Congress routed principal rival Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). But the Congress reaped the benefits of ensuring better law and order besides a weak, infighting-prone opposition.
After coming to power in 2001, Gogoi focussed on striking peace deals with myriad militant outfits — the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom (Ulfa) and National Democratic Front of Boroland (Ndfb) primarily.
Though security experts say the Ulfa's backbone was broken during the AGP's tenure from 1996-2001, it continued to be a force to reckon with. Wielding the carrot-and-stick policy, the Congress government began sending feelers to the leaders of Ulfa and other outfits.
The Ulfa and Ndfb talked truce in 2005, but while the latter adhered to it, the former reneged. But things changed for the better in 2009 with several top guns being ousted from Bangladesh and arrested. They included Ulfa chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and deputy commander-in-chief Raju Baruah, Ndfb chairman Ranjan Daimary, and Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel) chief Jewel Garlossa.
Other than Gogoi's clean image, the success for Congress also depended a lot on the managerial and troubleshooting skills of health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. He had the knack of dribbling out of adversities.
Sarma's handling of the Congress' allegedly corruption-prone ruling ally, the Bodoland People's Front (BPF), also seemed to have worked. So did the perceived overexposure to an RTI activist named Akhil Gogoi, whose relentless pro-farmer and anti-dam crusade eventually ended up as an anti-Gogoi, anti-Sarma and anti-Congress campaign.
On the opposition front, the AGP tried to put its house in order by reuniting all the factions in October 2008.
"But the people did not forgive the AGP for extra-judicial killings and economic woes during its tenure," said political analyst Dilip Chandan.Also seen responsible for the AGP's poor show was its flip-flop over which party to go with. It broke off its pre-poll alliance with the BJP to keep its post-poll options open which consequently split the non-Congress votes to suffer the "unexpected defeat".