Monthly Archives: May 2013

AGP and BJP should take Guwahati Municipality Elections seriously


The BJP has never been in power in Assam and the AGP has been out of it for the past 12 years. Political parties cannot assume themselves to be defacto alternative to an existing party in power. Governments don’t shift just by fate. Opposition parties have to concentrate on being a formidable force within and beyond the assembly or parliament. They have to be able in molding and representing the public voice against the current government. In short they have to remain connected to the electorate.

1422524A party has got few ways in which they can stay connected to the people. One is to have a strong cadre base and work on their respective ideology for maximum of the 365 days that constitute a year. Both AGP and the BJP don’t enjoy such a position in the state of Assam. The BJP has been out of power in centre for 9 years, but by portraying the development made in Gujarat, Bihar, and Chhattisgarh etc it is trying to gain mileage and keep their chances alive at the centre for 2014. Similarly, given that our country has multiple layers of governance, one another way of staying connected is to be part of local governments and perform well in them. This will help the parties run a campaign by setting this local governance as an example. Even this is not a position that either the AGP or BJP enjoys in Assam. Almost all local bodies, autonomous councils, Zila Parishads belong to the Indian National Congress. The ruling party has made a comfortable position across all layers of governments barring a few in which the major opposition is AIUDF.

Outside the world of representatives in the public sphere as well we see that the regional party is much under-represented today since yester years. The All Assam Students Union which was the mother organization of AGP is a distinct entity working towards regionalism and having no terms with the party on paper. Due to a series of successive losses the moral of the loyal supporters are also down. They might surely go and vote for the party but the zeal and enthusiasm is not visible. The BJP on the other hand has been growing at some pace but yet it has not reached a level where its chances look good. Moreover some hardcore ideologies of the BJP might play as political gimmicks in rest of India, but in Assam swaying voters on issues of hindutva is difficult. At times the lone resort of the AGP and BJP which comes as the issue of illegal immigration has been thrown so many times in the political centre stage that it has almost lost its charm now.

Finally although the BJP doesn’t have to face this but the AGP is surely blamed for being a defunct government for whatever reasons it might be. In the political blame game whenever the party raises an issue it is cross questioned on its initiative during its 10 years in power. So from all of this we see that the regional party and the national party have to both start almost from level zero. General elections are just a few months away and the state elections are due in 2016. At this juncture the Guwahati Municipal Elections come as a great opportunity for these parties to reverse the trend back to positives for itself. AGP has declared candidature for all 31 wards and 90 area representatives and the BJP is equally likely to do the same. Both parties are going ahead without a pre-poll alliance. Many political thinkers would welcome this and many would think otherwise.


Flash flood during recent rains in Guwahati

But why do I think that both these parties need to take this seriously? Firstly, an important thing to note here is that in recent times the city of Guwahati has faced many civic issues; water-logging, landslide, solid waste management etc. There were spurts of anger and demonstration against the local MLA’s. Anti-incumbency as a factor against the congress is certainly a visible phenomenon. Secondly it will be easier for both the parties to convince people to give them a chance to represent them in GMC because the potential risk that people might perceive from voting these parties in MLA or MP election is much less in a local municipal election. Thirdly it is an easy election to manage compared even to panchayat etc where the scale is larger. Moreover as a substantial portion of the electorate is urban the parties can expect less manipulation and more rational voting. Lastly a finally let us look at a few stats from 2011 Assam assembly election:

Name of Constituency

Congress (%) AGP (%) BJP (%) AGP + BJP



11.44 12.61




37.37 14.51


Guwahati East


34.30 23.25


Guwahati West 34.50 22.45 27.31


                                                                                   *Data from Election Commission of India

In politics one plus one is never equal to two but the stats clearly shows that there is a sizeable percentage of anti congress vote. It will still remain a test for both these parties to avoid eating into each other’s votes thereby making way for congress to slip through. But given that these elections are more localized the probability that results might be more favorable to these parties if decent strategies are applied exists.

The chances for AGP and BJP might seem better compared to its chances in other elections when seen from results perspective. But still the reason both these parties needs to put all their might behind these elections is also at a consequential level. It is a golden opportunity for them to set a good foothold in the most major urban centre for the state. Given more elections are lined up in future, a good performance in this elections will certainly enhance their future chances if they fare well in their work of running the GMC. 10-12 years is a long period in politics, for these many number of years lot of things might have changed within these parties. AGP is not anymore a party of novice politicians; BJP has a new state President and has come a little away from its hard line stances. But both parties have yet not received a platform in which they can rectify their past errors or portray a new identity. This is one such opportunity. Lastly but more importantly, a substantial portion of the loyal supporters and cadres of the regional party or BJP after being de-motivated with 2011 results are lying silently and helplessly across the state. A good show will usher in faith in their minds to work more for the parties in upcoming elections. Even if they don’t gain majority but manage to win a sizeable number of wards all the given benefits will stand and also they will get a chance to come closer to the electorate and stay connected.

The AGP has been out of power since 12 years and the BJP has never had a taste of it in Assam. Parties like Shiv Sena in Maharastra have been out of power for a greater number of years. But the BMC has been won by the Sena on most occasions. They are still a reckoning force in Maharashtra state politics. It is because of their strong cadre base and at the same time because their activity is visible in some layers of governance. A good civic body is a minimum basic need that comes as more primary than any other government body. Making a strong point there will prove a lot of things and that is why AGP & BJP must take Guwahati Municipal Elections seriously.

“University in Assam to be named after Rajiv Gandhi”, having issues ?

Rajiv-Indira-GandhiIt has been decided that Assam will be having a new university. And this time around it will be a women’s university. Certainly looks like a good initiative although many would want to raise many questions about the aims and objectives of this new varsity. But furthermore the Assam cabinet decided that it would be named Rajiv Gandhi Women’s University.  My problem doesn’t begin here. In fact just a new example gets added to the long list of such irritating political gimmicks. Assam already has one university named after Rajiv Gandhi (Assam Rajiv Gandhi University of Co-operative Management. link: The point of entry to the city of Guwahati, one that bears history of the legend Lachit Borphukan, the place where lakhs gathered for the cremation of the bard of the Brahmaputra Late Bhupen Hazarika gets named as Rajiv Chowk. Few flagship schemes of the government of Assam which have been marketed along the lengths and breadths of the Assam Valley runs in his name; such as the Rajiv Gandhi Computer Literacy Program. To add to this you have a few dozen central schemes named after him that works in Assam along with the rest of the nation. I am not cornering the Ex-Prime Minister of India; you are free to add Indira Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and so on to give him some company. Why do we name things in memory of a person? Is there a problem in naming things this way? Is there a better way of naming things?

We name a certain scheme, institution or public place after a person as a mark of respect for his efforts to a particular cause or due to the stature he holds in the minds of the people because of his great deeds for the people or the land. It bears much more meaning when the person is one who has been attached to the place where this institution or public place rests or to the cause for which the scheme belongs. Beyond this let us understand that Assam and the northeast have not reached a stage of flourishing. It has been facing the identity crisis since its amalgamation with the Indian nation. So the first problem that arises out of such absurd naming of schemes, projects and institutions is that it severely affects the sentiments of the people who would want it to be named after a person whose credentials in that field or for the land are much higher. The general public is also angered when they see this disconnected naming politics. The anger may not be visible as an immediate major outburst but the resentment only grows. It adds up to the fuel on which the identity crisis burns.

Secondly it very painfully sidelines the efforts of many visionaries, leaders, social actors who had throughout their life worked for the land and its people. There are examples of such great people from each corner of this nation, people who have devoted themselves for a cause. If we would ask them they would happily reject the idea of naming anything after them. But it must be our responsibility to set such things as mark of respect for them. It is also the onus of ours to inscribe their names on the diary of time so that their legacy can pass on through generations. Acts like naming the Arunachal University as Rajiv Gandhi University instead of a local person with whom the people can much more connect to, who will serve much more as a symbol of inspiration is indeed nonsensical.

Thirdly, it skews the democratic politics of this nation. The Gandhi-Nehru family is still actively involved in the politics of this nation. Although a sizeable section can distinguish between the role of the Government and that of the party in implementing such schemes, imagine how it would affect those sections of people for whom election is all about voting for the hand symbol or the lotus or the cycle or the elephant. It is important to note that along with naming of new projects in the name of the Nehru Gandhi family many old institutions with general names have been awarded a prefix of this clan. The politics of naming plays with the psychology of the masses. Once a prefix of the Nehru Gandhi family is added and marketed it solidifies in many citizens minds as a congress endeavor. It was certainly not a part of these leaders will to have their name attached to such a huge number of projects. But is a result of politics played by its current leaders to paint a one sided picture or initiative of state leaders trying to pacify the central leadership. We would have been much happier had the state leaders chosen Bimala Prasad Chaliha, Nabin Chandra Bordoloi, Hem Barua and other contemporaries instead of relying on the Gandhi tag to suit their personal interests.

In the broader sense of things the politics of naming plays a great part in molding public opinion. After the British left India a majority of the public places, monuments, roads, institutions got new names to create a sense of Indian identity. Names of Indian freedom fighters were initially used all over to create a sense of nationalism. The politics of naming thus becomes a very sensitive issue particularly in a nation like India with a fragile fabric tying up its divided masses. The sections which are left from this politics of naming finds themselves sidelined and feel discriminated. And this issue is not only confined between centre and state. Within states as well majority communities knowingly or unknowingly forget to acknowledge the efforts of great personalities belonging outside the majority community. We have many schools, colleges, roads and buildings named after contemporary Assamese visionaries of their times. But how many from the Bodo, Mishing, Karbi community finds their names inscribed in institutions of the mainstream society. No one can agree that there aren’t any great names from these communities. Indira Miri, Kalicharan Brahma, Bodofa Upendra Nath Brahma, Mahi Chandra Miri and Sobha Brahma are just a few to name from a long list. Because Assam is facing turmoil from outside and within it infact is much more important to recognize the efforts of all communities to continue the community building initiative fruitfully. And dedicating certain public institutions, places etc to the memory of a person is a form of solid recognition. The Nehru-Gandhi family has got enough recognition right from school textbooks to most central schemes and projects. An added tag will bring no marginal recognition to them. In fact it will anger many and will waste an opportunity of honoring and including the efforts of a certain section of the society.


He who is the bard of the Brahmaputa, he who is the true son of the Lohitya.

For the Assamese to see a site of historic resemblance being named as Rajiv Chowk instead of Lachit Borphukan or Bhupen Hazarika, for the Marathi’s to find the Bandra-Worli Sea link named after Rajiv Gandhi instead of a legend from the land is definitely heartening. The first question that comes in the mind of many is, “isn’t there anyone from this place whom they could have dedicated this to”. And the locals then see this naming as a form of forced unity and hegemony of the centre and the feeling of alienation continue. This should not be viewed as narrow regionalism as no one has ever suggested altering all Non-Marathi, or Non-Assamese names into Assamese ones. But when an institution of National repute shall be opened in Assam in the form of a women’s university and we name it after an inspiring women from Assam like Indira Miri, Kanaklata, Pratima Pandey Barua, Nalinibala Devi or Joymoti instead of Rajiv Gandhi it will be a great respect to those women who had by their life and work left enough to be an inspiration for generations. It also will be a way of promoting our figures in national mainstream, the unavailability of which we always cry about. And by no means will it be disrespect to Rajiv Gandhi and his works for the nation. Similarly within the state the politics of naming must be used in a way that instead of creating resentment and difference of opinion it is able to build mutual trust and confidence. Only then will the identity crisis resolve and unity prosper. This initiative doesn’t rest only with the government. Interest groups, concerned citizens based on common consensus will all have to push for this to become a reality.

Criticizing Akhil Gogoi

AkhilGogoi295This one man has been in the news across the length and breadth of the state of Assam. After his initial recognition as an anti-corruption RTI activist today he unperturbedly clashes head on with people in power of the Govt of Assam, central ministries and even the concerned central ministers. Since then till now his popularity and mass base has always seen a positive slope. Undeterred pro-poor, pro-farmer and pro-indigenous stand of his has taken this one name “Akhil Gogoi” from villages to villages and one home to another. Media focuses more attention on this one man than even the opposition. Honestly speaking many does reckon him as the true opposition to the congress rule of the state as a leader of the common masses unbiased in raising their concerns.

Whenever popularity grows criticism will definitely follow. This article is not a piece of criticism of Akhil Gogoi but a critic of the kind of criticism thrown on this man. Criticism and protest are two faces of the same coin in the state of Assam. We have a section protesting almost on every issue and we have a hand in pocket block criticizing sch actions each day. I will sadly have to insert this comment here that the number of dedicated workers in Assam is just a handful. Whatever Akhil Gogoi’s final motive be, be it political mileage or any other, it is outside the purview of my criticism of his critics because at the end of the day every individual works in his/her self interest. Akhil Gogoi as citizen reserves the right to have his own such wishes. Firstly no one can deny that right and secondly having political ambitions in a democracy is a good thing because participation is a primary tenet of democracy.

Recent times have seen multi layered criticism for this person. “His protests disrupts normalcy and is a headache for the normal people”. What has Akhil Gogoi done for the farmers? Isn’t Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (the organization led by Akhil Gogoi) getting too much involved in politics? Let us at the onset understand that we don’t live in a true democracy at all. Our rights are never protected unless we appeal for it and in some cases it is grossly violated by Govt. agencies or private players in close nexus with Govt. agencies. Sometime when we see open firing against protesters, curfews announced whenever there is a slight possibility of protest, when media is debarred from questioning the public representatives a flash back of pre-independence times crosses the mind. If pre-independence saw one jallianwala bagh we have seen dozens after it. So for the hands in pocket crowd to disqualify Akhil Gogoi’s protest just because it may stall their easy drive on the streets of Guwahati is a little shortsighted. In the Indian democratic setup we sadly cannot expect petitions and notices to the Govt. to bring a change. Memorandums after memorandums will go down the drain. Politicians are hardly concerned about good governance and participatory democracy. They are the main reason for the depletion of people’s belief in the democracy and democratic institutions. The only thing that seems to work is votes and vote bank. So unless the misdeeds of the governments are brought to the streets by the people themselves in a way that it seems to affect their future electoral results hardly anyone bothers to care. That these protests at times turn violent is only natural to digest. The house and property that my father built with his hard work of decades, the house that me and my family calls home, if that is suddenly snatched away from me then I for certain will go mad. I am thankful that the illiterate, impoverished masses on the call of Akhil Gogoi came to protest democratically. They came with what democracy called for, a memorandum to be submitted to the concerned authorities. But when they knocked their door instead of receiving the public opinion they were left stranded on the sun baked streets for hours without water and shade. Natural slogans were responded with lathi charge and bullets were fired. How do we want them to react? The ones who had lost everything and yet with some belief in democracy came forward to protest, for them was it any less than the tyranny of imperial rule. Things went on as it happens in India. Relocation and rehabilitation is easily promised. And exactly a year later when agricultural land was handed over unlawfully to business hubs in rural kamrup the same landless people had to protest all over again. Can’t we notice how circular this issue of land has been made by the government in Assam? The poor have been drawn to the centre of this issue and rendered landless and unemployed.

5bbc2aed7eb4a97970667ca758d3d935_XLThis was just one cause. At the end of this debate instead of being sympathetic to such causes affecting the poor such as violation of land rights, scam in distribution of fertilizers and seeds, setting industries in a manner that it impacts rural livelihood and traditional occupation etc if we try to be judgmental about the means and mode adopted by these oppressed people then I think we are being highly presumptuous. Our belief in democratic institutions is almost over; our belief in our representatives is also over. The day our belief in protest and participation is over we will hit the final nail in the coffin on which democracy can rest for ever. Protest by its very nature is meant to bear externalities. Protest is not a show run by an event management company after few weeks of rehearsal. Protest is meant to lodge genuine grievances that affect us. I cannot be unhappy about the fact that some protest disrupted my journey for a few hours. In fact I will be and I must be happy that a few miles walk by me might bring back what was snatched from many. Democracy will function only if we the citizens stand together as a unit. I cannot defect because my short term benefits over shadows the long term benefits of many or criticize others who are trying to do it.

Secondly when people ask as to what this man has done for the farmers and being a farmer organization is it diving too deeply into politics. I don’t know if we would have heard of this name called Akhil Gogoi had we had a government that functioned efficiently enough to meet all the requirements of the farmers. The reason we know of him is because we have had successive governments that have not done their responsibility properly. In Assam we have been asking all these wrong questions for the longest possible time. What has ULFA done? What has AASU done? And now what has Akhil Gogoi done? The functioning authority is the government. It is their responsibility to engage the people for meeting the best end for all. That NRC has not been updated, indigenous right have not been protected, border has not been sealed is a failure of the govt. AGP which was in power for 10 years can be blamed for this but not the AASU which has kept this issue alive in the national stage for so long. Similarly we cannot question Akhil Gogoi on what he has done positively for farmers. Some wants him to launch an information scheme for farmers; quality seed distribution scheme; few wants him to incentivize Assamese youth to take up agriculture. The people have not given the mandate to him but to the government to act positively in the interest of people. Being a human being with 24 hours a day in hand Akhil Gogoi has at least pointed the negatives and thereby brought the farmers issues to mainstream. Akhil-Gogoi1In his absence would we have known of a seed distribution scam, irregularities in tractor and water pump distribution? When he started the sale of vegetables at half the normal market price the common man realized the huge amount of hoarding and black marketing which happens in between. Will you as a citizen with common sense want Akhil Gogoi to continue such sale of vegetables for ever in every corner of Assam or will you want the govt to check black marketing, hoarding and syndicate raj to ensure fair price in market. Responsible citizens will form more NGO’s or join hands with Akhil to support farmers pro-actively. Putting a burden on him is a mere out of the cult idea which we Assamese have indoctrinated best (we cannot see another person rise above us and will do our best to bring him down). Lastly to comment on KMSS and its engagements on political issues, the idea of farmer issues being the core of the political drama has historical pretext. Agricultural taxes, oppression of farmer class have often been the reason for most revolts. Also it is important to understand that being the most primary part of the economy the farmers have to face all the problems of that economy as it ultimately trickles down to them. Every Government issue does impact the farmers. In the recent chit fund case most of the people who were cheated were the poor peasant population who in the absence of formal banking options have to resort to such saving schemes. Inflation hits them the hardest. Lack of good education, drinking water facility, sanitation bothers them the most. At the same time I must agree that in the political game Akhil Gogoi is over burdening himself, in few cases unnecessarily drawing opposition and personal enmity. In the long run of politics people are remembered more for the results they produced instead of the efforts they put in. With concentrated efforts he will have to produce results sooner than later. Criticism will continue, and even I don’t have to say that people should not criticize him because we are in a democracy. I can only use my democratic right to criticize their criticism. On the end note I would like to say that even if people cannot appreciate his efforts it is wrong to view his initiatives from our closed rooms in a way that suits us and judge him on those parameters. If we live in a failed democracy we cannot throw our knowledge of civics on the masses whose civic rights have been grossly violated.