Gaurav Gogoi is the quintessential new-generation politician – educated, suave, exposed to the wider world and eager to make his mark. Son of Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Assam, Gaurav realises that politics would be no walk in the park for him; it would be hard, grueling work. The young man understands that the advantage of having a politician father won’t take him too far and he has to prove himself on his own. In a free-wheeling chat with Simantik Dowerah of Firstpost, he unspools his vision of Assam. The excerpts:
From the corporate sector to the social sector to politics, and a course in Public Administration at New York University along the way. Do you think you are now prepared enough for the hard grind of politics?
The formal degree in Public Administration and Public Policy from New York University has definitely helped me in politics. It has given me insight into governance, which is a complicated process. For instance, while drafting government legislation multiple agencies are involved, taking care of intricate considerations such as politics, economy and the social consequences of a particular policy. My stint with the NGO, Pravah, has proved to be valuable as it gave me exposure to the day-to-day challenges faced by people, in the rural areas in particular. I also have the first hand experience of noticing how politicians, local MLAs and political parties play a role in removing the bottlenecks in governance.
You once said that you want to create your own identity. How do you create that without separating your identity from that of your father, Tarun Gogoi?
People across Assam have given me lot of love, affection and support because I belong to the family of Tarun Gogoi. On my own, I have tried to honour that feeling by focussing on issues related to young people, particularly in the field of sports, agriculture and education. In each of these fields, I have taken initiatives at my own level. For instance, in sports I have organised football training camps and tournaments at the local level among the rural youth. In agriculture, I have held agriculture training programmes for young farmers. These farmers have been trained in modern techniques of farming and this has given them the courage to increase their produce and go for markets that they never went before. In the education sphere too, I have organised seminars highlighting the role of North East policy of the Centre vis-a-vis Look East Policy. I have connected myself to the grassroots in my own way and I have the love and support of the people.
You have crisscrossed the entire state of Assam within a short period of time. What do the masses expect of you and what kind of assurances they get from you?
My short period in politics has been a fruitful one. I have got the first-hand experience of my beautiful state and its diverse culture. I have met young people from all communities. I am genuinely moved by their problems. I have a lot of goals to achieve for Assam. Expectation of the people only motivate me to usher into a new attitude with a new set of values for the Assamese society which are based on self-respect, dignity and aspiration.
When are you fighting your first polls? There have been talks that the party might field you from Kaliabor constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Is it true?
My role is to strengthen the party at the central, regional and local levels. Whatever role is given to me by the Congress party, I will be happy to fulfill it. I cannot guarantee what responsibility my party will give me in future. All decisions will be taken by the party.
How do you visualise your political future and also the state of Assam 10 years from now? Are we seeing a chief minister in the making?
I am working for multi-faceted changes in Assam. I hope to fulfill the dreams of the people of Assam and I am sure people will be there with me. I want to make Assam economically prosperous by removing perennial problems like power shortage, agricultural markets, floods and land erosion. As I said before, my party will decide the role it wants me to play. But as a Congress worker I am always engaged with the betterment of the people, state and the party, no matter in whatever position I am.
Why is Assam not seen as an industry-friendly state despite so many tax benefits to companies who want to do business here?
You must realise that the non-Congress government in Assam completely ignored the infrastructure sector in the state. However, in the last 10 years the Congress government has tried its best to build it from the ruins. Now roads are being developed. The state is also trying to develop its inland water transport facilities. We are seeing for the first time that private automobile and construction companies are entering the state. Even educational institutes of repute like the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, NIFT and National Institute of Design are setting up centres in Assam. However, I feel more IT companies of fame are needed in the state. We also need more schools of health, engineering and law.
Politics is not easy. You will get dragged into controversies and there might be false allegations and mud-slinging too. Are you prepared for these?
I have learnt many valuable lessons from my father, who is quite experienced in politics. As long as you are sincere in your work, the blessings of the people will be with you. Nothing is, as my father says, more important. So long as I have blessings of people, I have nothing to worry. I pray that I remain focused on my goals in my entire career.
In some sections of the media it is reported that your entry into politics has led to dissidence in the party. Also, it has been reported that Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is seeking alliance with the All India United Democratic Front to ward off dissenting voices. What are your views on that?
Till we have the goodwill of the people and we provide them with efficient services, there is actually nothing for us to worry about. As you have already seen in the last Assembly election of 2011, our party received more votes and the party as a whole won many more seats than it had won in the elections prior to that. The vote share has not diminished even by the slightest margin.we continue to enjoy the support of the public as evident in the recently concluded Panchayat elections. As a matter of fact, this is not a concern for us. We are in fact looking into issues of erosion management, skill development and women empowerment.
The government is implementing mega social schemes like NREGA or NRHM or the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. But the beneficiaries are not completely benefitted. Where do you think is the lacunae?
For better implementation of these programmes we need the most talented and the best of Assamese youths as social entrepreneurs and policy makers in the public sector and governance. This will automatically ensure quality implementation and better results. I want to encourage them and build their careers on short projects, permanent engagement or in any other way that will help both them and the society in general.
Before we wind up, we also know that you love choreography and dancing. When will Assam see that side of yours?
Some things are best left for family and friends. What Assam needs today is a principled leadership to overhaul the challenges. That is much more important. But nevertheless, we have many festivals like the Bihu and other festivities that are being celebrated in villages belonging to communities like the Bodos and Misings. I participate in them and often break into dance along with them. I stay with them and also have their food. I have been fortunate enough to receive such warm hospitality from so many communities.