GAURAV GOGOI: The Emerging Challenger
It seems the once invincible Himanta Biswa Sarma (HBS) is losing the battle of perception quite consistently these days to a younger adversary, an emerging star of politics, Gaurav Gogoi.
In the latest episode, the frontal attack by Shri Gaurav Gogoi on Assam Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma (HBS) for allegedly using his clout to get government subsidies for his wife’s company from the Government of India has led to the eruption of a war of words between Gogoi and HBS.
The CM denied the allegations and counterattacked Gogoi, but the usually vocal and ruthless politician HBS looked vulnerable, distressed and defensive. His counterattack on Gogoi also lacked substance.
As the Assam Congress initially seemed lacking in taking a bold position in this issue, Gaurav took the mantle and highlighted it nationally. This showcases how Congress is placing Gaurav Gogoi at the forefront of its rebuilding strategies for reclaiming lost turfs, particularly North East after his good performance inside the Parliament and his rising popularity amongst the masses in Assam.
Ascent of Gaurav Gogoi:
Gaurav Gogoi’s ascent in both National and State politics is a land marking event that has already set in motion a new round of balancing of political and electoral equations that have been overwhelmingly in BJP’s (particularly HBS‘s) control in the North East until now. Mr. Gogoi has shaken that foundation.
Chief Minister Dr. Himanta Biswa Sarma (HBS), known as the Chanakya of North Eastern politics, was credited to have managed the power balance in his, and to a certain extent BJP’s, favour in Assam and the North Eastern Region (NER).
He did it by keeping the Opposition in complete disarray by a mix of shrewdness, power and Central support. He neutralised all Opposition – both within the BJP and outside – and removed all alternative to his one-man show of power and dominance.
IT Cell Running for Cover:
BJP’s IT Cell in Assam completely under the control of Mr. Himanta Biswa Sarma (HBS) and his support ecosystem throughout the country tried to portray Mr. Gaurav Gogoi as Pappu of Assam and as a dynastic princeling. On August 8, all such elements had to run for cover under fire from a blazing Gaurav as he set off the attack against PM Modi in Parliament on the Manipur issue.
This was perhaps the most important speech of the young Gogoi’s career and the moment was huge for the Congress Party and the combined Opposition. This was a moment, if utilised well, could have set the tone for the Grand Old Party and the Opposition for the next phase of Assembly Polls and the most important 2024 General Elections.
Or conversely, if squandered, it would have turned into another missed opportunity for the Congress and would again convince the people not to take them seriously. For the Congress, it was about making a strong statement, and not to lose the war of perception.
Congress’ Smart Tactical Move:
And, the responsibility fell on Gaurav’s shoulders. Though everybody expected Rahul Gandhi to start the Opposition’s charge, it was deliberately given to Gaurav Gogoi. Rest is history. It proved to be a very smart and successful tactical move by the Congress and Mr. Rahul Gandhi. In BJP’s terminology, it would have been termed a tactical masterstroke.
Facing the massive majority of the BJP and the NDA in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Gogoi rose to the occasion like a seasoned politician and delivered a high-powered knockout speech setting the tone for an all-out attack by the Opposition. Congress’ strategy worked: Gaurav delivered what was expected from him by the Congress leadership.
Congress’ stance and the logic behind the no-confidence motion clearly communicated to the people and the Congress made a bold statement at the perception level. The message was clear: This time the BJP won’t get any walk over from the Congress in the next General Elections.
BJP’s Interest in Gaurav:
Speaking amidst and against some of the finest orators of the country, Gaurav spoke with maturity, content and flair; he directed controlled anger and sarcasm towards the Government, but without losing his elegance. In fact, his flow was so natural and logic so forceful that there was pin drop silence in the entire House during his speech.
The speech was a perfect example of being lethal without being abusive, in contrast to speeches in fashion these days that tarnish and abuse each other. His speech was even praised by the ruling party MPs. Speaking immediately after Mr Gogoi, BJP’s Nishikant Dubey — a fine speaker himself — acknowledged Gogoi’s speech as a good one before countering his points.
It has now come to light from top BJP sources that the entire BJP leadership including PM Modi in private appreciate the rise of Shri Gaurav Gogoi as a matured Parliamentarian and speaker and their interest in inducting him into the BJP.
Moment of Triumph:
This debate in the Parliament was a battle of nerves and very rarely have the people and youth of Assam witnessed an Assamese or North Easterner playing it so well by taking the centre stage and leading the charge against one of the most powerful Central Governments and the Prime Minister. It was a psychological moment of triumph for every Assamese, irrespective of his political ideology or support for any party.
The Political Impact:
Talking about impact, the biggest political impact was seen in Dispur that same evening as CM HBS was forced to call a press conference to counter Gaurav’s speech in Parliament. It was clearly one of HBS’s most dumbfounded and clueless moments, unable to decide how to tackle Gaurav and fearing losing the spotlight that HBS is now so accustomed to.
Ideally, he would have liked to reply Gaurav in the Parliament itself as it would have given him more publicity and spotlight nationally; but as it was not possible, in his desperation HBS calculated the next best possible course of action – to do a press conference and ridicule Gaurav’s speech and its impact.
The Press Conference (PC) turned out to be a total failure and it exposed HBS fully, showing his political insecurity and frustration. In fact, his cluelessness was so evident during the entire presser that while attacking Gogoi, he resisted taking his name most of the time, just to give the impression that he was a bigger leader and he didn’t want to give Gogoi equal stature to himself by taking his name.
On a question from a journo, HBS finally took Gaurav’s name to take a dig at the latter by terming him a batcha (kid). A childish behaviour on the part of the Assam CM towards someone who was at the national spotlight at that moment.
In fact, creating and being part of almost all controversies by any means possible just to stay in the limelight in the right wing ecosystem has been a very effective strategy for HBS over the last few years. Seemed left without any attention in the latest no-confidence debate, HBS desperately wanted to get some spotlight himself by trying to target Gaurav Gogoi – the man of the moment.
An Alternative Emerges:
It became clear that HBS’s main objective to do the PC was to call Gaurav Gogoi a batcha (kid) who didn’t know any history of the North Eastern Region (NER) and tried to do a futile attempt to ridicule Gogoi’s points.
By doing so, HBS tried to protect his power position, as people clearly saw an alternative and challenger in Gaurav Gogoi to Assam BJP and HBS. He also tried to reassert his wavering clout in the region and amidst his party’s power architecture due to many reasons, particularly after the Manipur conflict.
Gaurav Gogoi has been known to be the bete noire of CM Himanta Biswa Sarma. Their rivalry has history since HBS’s time in the Congress. Majority of the people of Assam have a feeling that Gaurav is one of the fewest from the Congress who aren’t in any kind of ‘secret arrangement’ with HBS, and so not under his influence.
That’s something that makes HBS both nervous and jealous of Gaurav’s feat. HBS knows that Gaurav would be a more than worthy challenger to him and a better leader than him.
Gaurav trumps HBS, again:
This is a round where Gaurav Gogoi clearly trumped HBS, the de facto strongman of the entire North East — that’s the way people and observers are interpreting it. But, this is not the first time that the Koliabor MP trounced the CM tactically and through smart manoeuvring.
The most notable being the 3G (three Gogoi) controversy that the BJP (particularly the HBS lobby) devised to sideline the three Gogois (Gaurav Gogoi, Akhil Gogoi and Lurinjyoti Gogoi) politically in Upper Assam as this grouping is seen as the bigger threat for the HBS-led BJP in Assam. Within the 3G, Gaurav was the main target as he was seen to be the architect of this concept of the three young leaders coming together.
In this fight of narrative building and politicking, HBS and his entire brigade actually got a pushback from Gaurav as the HBS brigade had to step back after realising their efforts turned counterproductive.
A public photograph capturing the three Gogois were tried to be given a community-based political colour by team HBS as they accused the 3Gs of being indulged in Ahom politics. At the same time, another section of the team targeted the 3Gs by accusing them of practising Gogoi politics, further trying to create division within the Ahom community.
All these were ploys to paint this group of young leaders as leaders of a particular community, thus confining their reach. This was also a measure to checkmate the highly influential Ahom community from emerging as the key challenger of the HBS dispensation.
However, the entire exercise by the HBS brigade turned counterproductive as people and communities saw through the brigade’s agenda and censured its bullying brand of politics. Prominent Ahom voices also gave a strong rebuttal to any attempt to drag the community into nasty politics.
First, the BJP fielded all its MLAs and MPs from the Ahom community to counter the three Gogois and publicise the HBS Government’s work for the community. But, these were of no avail as the political narrative and vibe already started to turn against the HBS-led BJP.
Sensing the mood, the BJP decided to pull back. It directed its leaders not to comment on the issue and fuel controversy. It was perhaps the first time in a long phase, particularly after becoming the CM that HBS and his brigade had to step back from a fight.
It was advantage Gaurav being the prime target of the HBS coterie as without getting drawn into the political slugfest despite multiple provocations, Mr Gogoi earned key points to his profile as a serious and responsible politician — a stark contrast to HBS and his political lieutenants.
Gaurav played with smart manoeuvring and narrative setting and let the loudmouths of the HBS brigade do the rest for him as they walked straight into the trap. This retreat by the seemingly invincible team HBS was marked with precision by people and groups feeling aggrieved under HBS rule and challenges started emanating from different quarters. Opposition also became more organised and vocal against the Government and HBS.
For Gaurav Gogoi, the real test begins now. The bigger political and electoral theatre are awaiting him where he has to win and perform, not just for himself but for his Party as well. His sudden rise has also alerted his rivals within his Party as well.
Plus, there’s a sizeable section within Congress which is under influence from HBS. There lies the main threat. As the spotlight is on him, he has to prove his political acumen and innovative strategy.
Images from different sources
Mahabahu.com is an Online Magazine with collection of premium Assamese and English articles and posts with cultural base and modern thinking. You can send your articles to email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org (For Assamese article, Unicode font is necessary)