Union Minister Bijoy Krishna Handique’s friends call him a “good man”. His political opponents say he shirks work. Both agree that controversies don’t hound him: “How can they? If you don’t do any work or take decisions, how can there be criticism or controversy?” asks the BJP’s Kamakhya Tassa.
As a young political worker, Handique, now an MP from Jorhat in Assam, helped in relief work whenever there was a natural disaster, the minister says. “In fact, it was after flood relief work that I staked my claim for a party nomination to contest elections,” he says.
Handique’s literary interests — he writes poetry — come from his father, the late Krishna Kanta Handique, a well-known educationist and former vice-chancellor of the Guwahati University.
A young Bijoy Handique had planned to go abroad for higher studies, but his mother’s untimely death cut short his plans.
“I could not leave my father all by himself,” Handique says.
Handique, who owns a number of tea gardens, joined the Congress early in life. He was a Congress supporter as a student. Later, in 1962, he helped the party during elections.
Four years later when he sought a ticket for the forthcoming Assembly elections the then Congress leadership did not oblige him: “I came to Delhi and lobbied with everyone till a very senior leader told me that I could afford to wait a few years given that age was on my side.”
He did, and in 1972 contested his first election to the state Assembly.
When the Congress spilt, Handique stayed with Indira Gandhi to help strengthen her faction. Though he aspired for a Lok Sabha seat, Gandhi chose him for the Upper House.
That must seem a long time ago: Handique has now done six successive terms as Lok Sabha member from Jorhat and has thrice been minister of state since 2004. This is his first as cabinet minister heading two ministries: Mines and Development of Northeast Region.
Handique is particular about the rings he wears on his fingers, as they serve as a good-luck charm. The “rings are elections driven”, he admits.
But, “superstition apart, it is also fashionable to wear rings”, he says, adding that he does not go for expensive ones.