Guwahati: Credited with bringing insurgent group ULFA to the negotiating table and hauling Assam back from the brink of bankruptcy, chief minister Tarun Gogoi has combined administrative and political acumen with his simple demeanour to help Congress retain power for a record consecutive third term.
Behind the genial smile and a straight-forward approach of 75-year-old Gogoi, who has also served as a union minister and six terms in Lok Sabha, lies a man who means business when it comes to development of Assam.
The highlight of Gogoi’s ten-year rule in the past was bringing several militant outfits of the state, including the ULFA, to the negotiating table and ensuring financial stability of the state government.
Gogoi had taken over the reins of power for the first time on 17 May, 2001, from the Asom Gana Parishad and was faced with the challenge of bringing the state out of the morass of militant violence and financial instability characterised by a huge debt burden, so much so that even government employees were not receiving their salaries on time.
Gogoi’s initiative in this direction paid dividends and Congress returned to power for the second consecutive term, albeit with lesser seats and he formed the government in alliance with its coalition partner Bodoland Peoples’ Front (BPF) in 2006.
Gogoi’s second term as chief minister was a mix of high and low with the multi-crore North Cachar Hills fund diversion case causing embarrassment to Congress. However, he overcame it by bringing several militant organisations like the ULFA, NDFB (Pro-talk group), DHD, UPDS and others to the negotiating table.
Plagued by ill-health in the last year of his second term, Gogoi underwent three complicated heart surgeries—a bypass, aortic valve replacement and enlargement of the aorta procedure— at Mumbai’s Asian Heart Institute.
He again underwent a surgery for replacing his pace maker just a few weeks before election campaign was scheduled to start this year.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi waves to supporters after he worshiped at Kamakhya Temple in Guwahati on Friday, before the declaration of the results of Assam Assembly elections.He won the state elections by a huge majority. PTI
On both the occasions, he recovered fast and took charge of both office and election campaign with renewed vigour.
Enjoying the confidence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Gogoi’s journey to the state’s top post was scripted with patience and perseverance.
Born in the sylvan surroundings of Rangajan Tea Estate to a tea garden doctor Kamleswar Gogoi and his wife Usha Gogoi on 01 April, 1936, in Upper Assam’s Jorhat district, Gogoi, called ‘Punakon’ fondly by his parents, spent his childhood playing in the sprawling lush green of the tea garden with his siblings and children of the garden labourers.
Gogoi’s penchant for politics took roots early in life. Though his father had wanted him to study medicine or engineering he had set his heart on politics and even told his teacher that he wanted to become prime minister when he grew up.
Motivated by the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru who visited Jorhat in 1952, Gogoi, then studying in Class X, began participating in various political activities and much to the annoyance of his father and teachers failed to clear his High School Leaving examinations that year. He, however, cleared it the next year as a private candidate.
Gogoi plunged into politics as a student of Jagannath Barooah (JB) College in Jorhat and after his graduation, joined the Allahabad University to pursue a law degree. He, however, fell ill and returned to Assam getting his law degree from Gauhati University.
An active leader of the Assam unit of Bharat Yuvak Samaj, Gogoi joined Congress in 1963 and since then has been a party loyalist ardently supporting both Indira Gandhi, her son Rajiv Gandhi and then Sonia Gandhi.
He also served the party as a General Secretary and Joint Secretary in the 1980s, besides heading the Assam Pradesh Congress Committee from 1986-90 and again from 1997 to 2001.
His foray into electoral political office began with his election as a member of the Jorhat Municipal Board in 1968 and in 1971 he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time from the Jorhat Parliamentary constituency.
Gogoi was a member of the fifth, sixth, seven, ten, twelve and thirteenth Lok Sabha and was the Union Minister of Food Processing with independent charge from 1991 to 1995.
An ardent sports lover, Gogoi played golf regularly till recently and keenly follows cricket, football and tennis.
He is also fond of reading, gardening, good food and earlier enjoyed shopping for his own clothes and accessories.
Married to Dolly Gogoi, a post graduate in Zoology from Gauhati University, in 1972 in Guwahati, the couple has a daughter, Chandrima, an MBA and a son Gaurav who holds a degree in Public Administration from New York University.
Gogoi’s family, with his wife choosing to be a housewife and both his children living abroad, have stayed away from politics though his son campaigned for his father in his constituency Titabor. However, the indulgent father claimed his son had no intention of joining politics but was currently visiting Assam to understand his state and people better.