When he underwent an open-heart surgery in Mumbai last year, Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, 74, was thought to be losing his grip on both his health and politics.
On Friday, he accomplished a rare feat, post-90s: he powered a Congress win for the third straight term in a state. This achievement is rivaled only by Gogoi’s Delhi counterpart Sheila Dikshit.
Now, Gogoi is set to head a Congress-led government yet again -- despite strong rumours of an imminent transition, sources say.
Gogoi, flush with victory, however, put the ball in the court of the Congress’ leadership. “Such matters (chief minister) are decided by our party high command. For me, what matters right now is our win. I don’t care much about being CM again,” he told HT at his home at a hilltop in Guwahati.
He also said his alliance with the Bodoland People’s Front was “intact”, putting to rest some speculation of a possible split.
“The chief minister is decided by the state Congress legislature party,” Congress general secretary in charge of Assam, Digvijay Singh said, a hint that Gogoi will be back as CM.
However, senior state Congress leaders said there are no chances that he would not be chief minister. “You have seen the landslide mandate. You can draw your own conclusions,” said health minister Hemanta Biswa Sharma.
Gogoi, who has served six terms as an Assam MP, said he was in no mood for retiring. “I have double energy now,” he said.
The chief minister is credited with getting top United Liberation Front of Asom rebels to join the mainstream and ushering development, despite allegations of scandals. “Once very underdeveloped, Assam’s GDP is now 8%. People realize this,” he said.
In the run-up to the Assembly polls, there were rumours that Gogoi could be replaced by a younger face even if the Congress were to win again.
State Congress chief Bhubaneswar Kalita, a Gogoi detractor, and Pradyut Bordoloi, the power minister who is well-known in Delhi, and even Congress MP Paban Singh Ghatowar were said to be in the reckoning. This was necessitated partly by the need to groom a successor to an aging Gogoi.
Gogoi, however, said his mandate was give Congress a win. “My job is done. I will do as my party tells me.”