Assam’s three-time chief minister Tarun Gogoi, credited with pulling the state out of the dark days of militancy, has died at the age of 86 following post-Covid complications. He is survived by his wife Dolly, parliamentarian-son Gaurav and daughter Chandrima.
Waves of dissidence, a string of corruption charges against his cabinet colleagues, a full-blown insurgency, two major health scares, half-a-dozen ethnic issues, miraculously, could not touch him during his 15-year tenure, partially due to some smart politicking and some social engineering.
He remained the people’s chief minister, the state’s longest-serving. Politics and his failures apart, even the bitterest rivals of Gogoi would accept that he had allowed the opposition and critics the space to air their views—a thing so scarce in the country today.
After a long, but not-so-significant stint in Parliament, beginning 1971, first from Jorhat and then from Kaliabor, he became the Union food processing minister in the Narsimha Rao cabinet. He returned to Assam in 1996 to take over the Congress’s reins at the end of the Hiteswar Saikia era. His poistion was, however, almost usurped by party veterans during 1996-2000. But after the first assembly polls win in 2001, he checkmated each of them and cemented his place. That he was loyalist of the Congress’s first family also helped him retain his position.
Known for his endearing and infectious smile, Gogoi had two catchphrases among several that people would remember him for: “No problem” and “Baad Diya He” (leave it). He often used these to get work done or to brush off criticism. He wrote in his memoir, Turnaround: Leading Assam from the Front, that the two words—no problem—“come to mind whenever I feel overwhelmed. They give me the strength...