Assam polls: A battle to live up to legacy of Tarun Gogoi

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One potentially decisive side story of ongoing assembly election campaigns in Assam is a battle to live up to the legacy of former chief minister Tarun Gogoi between his son Gaurav Gogoi of Congress and former wingman Himanta Biswa Sarma of BJP.

Gogoi, who was the chief minister from 2001 to 2016, succumbed to post-Covid complications on November 23 after more than six decades of public life. He was 84.

After his death, his son Gaurav Gogoi, two-time member of parliament from Koliabor constituency in Assam, has become active in state politics. He took his father’s ashes across the state and at many places people turned out in large numbers to pay their respect to the departed leader.

Taking a cue from his father, Gaurav is mingling with crowds in the run up to the polls. He is also leading the leading opposition party’s campaign of ‘Asom Bachao Ahok’ (Let’s save Assam). Gogoi, who was the longest-serving chief minister of Assam, believed in ensuring that the benefits of government schemes reached as many households as possible. One of the hallmarks of his 15 years’ tenure was to create at least one beneficiary of government schemes in one family.

Many observers say finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, once a trusted lieutenant of Gogoi, has carried forward the works he had initiated while he was a minister in Gogoi’s cabinet. Sarma joined the BJP in 2015.

During his tenure as health and education minister in Gogoi’s government Sarma had helped create a big number of jobs. For example, 100,000 teachers were regularised, and around 40,000 people were absorbed in the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). Emergency call services such as 108, for emergency response, and 102, for ambulance, were introduced, and new medical colleges came up.

All this generated a lot of goodwill. Sarma continued with regularisation of jobs of teacher as part of the current BJP government, led from the front during the Covid-19 pandemic management, and piloted Assam’s biggest direct benefit transfer scheme ‘Orunodoi’, observers said.

The scheme has been rolled out with 2.2 million families as beneficiaries and the government transferred `830 per month to the account of one of the female members of the family under the scheme. The `2,400-crore scheme encompassed widows, unmarried women, divorcees, and dibyang (people with disabilities).

Around 800,000 bank accounts of tea estate workers were provided with `8,000 in three instalments.

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