People in Assam wary of BJP’s anti-poor agenda: Gaurav Gogoi
Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi's son and Congress candidate from Kaliabor seat Gaurav Gogoi says UPA's historic work in lifting people out of poverty will help the party have edge over BJP.
Given his academic qualification and the connections he can easily boast of, he could have chosen a comfortable corporate career and lead a cool life of affluence. But Gaurav Gogoi, a Public Administration degree-holder from New York University and only son of Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, preferred to chart a much tougher path in politics. At a time when the concept of dynastic politics is increasingly becoming unpopular in India, Gaurav, who is now the Congress candidate for the Lok Sabha constituency of Kaliabor in Assam, has to face challenges not only from the wave created by BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi but also suffer under the baggage of the UPA government at the Centre.
Aware of the obstacles ahead, the young Gaurav speaks to Firstpost on how he intends to make an impact in his first big battle of his political career. He also gives us an insight of his thoughts on the Narendra Modi wave, the challenges from AIUDF and how his father inspires him. The excerpts:
You have always stayed outside Assam for most of your life. How are you establishing the connect with the local people? How are you preparing for your campaign?
I returned to Assam in the middle of 2010 and since then I have been involved with the socio-economic development of the state. Since my arrival I have travelled the length and breadth of the state. During these tours I met countless farmers, teachers, students, tribals, and flood-affected people. This has helped me understand their challenges they face in their everyday lives. In fact, to try and get a first-hand experience and to find solutions for their problems I also started a non-profit organisation. I also invited Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz to increase financial literacy among the common people. Stiglitz also spoke about an economy model for Assam. Moreover, I have organised training workshops for youths to encourage entrepreneurship. This experience has brought me closer to the people of the state. Politics has given me a bigger platform to address the problems affecting my state. Politics is a medium for me in the area of socio-economic development of the state.
What will you focus on primarily as a first time MP if you get elected?
I had held a meeting of volunteers sometime back in my Lok Sabha constituency of Kaliabor and people from 200 villages attended it. This survey effectively captured what people want and the crucial needs of the people were also identified. It is clear that erosion caused by rivers is a major problem. The region also needs a scientific approach in agriculture. There is the problem of unemployment among the youth as well. Based on the feedback of that survey, I have divided my work into two missions – water and youth.
In the water mission, I would like to tackle the problems based on my personal learning gathered from the survey. The focus would be primarily on the problems of flood, irrigation and ensuring safe drinking water.
My other mission is for the youth. I would like to bring quality to higher education in the state, transform colleges and universities into centres of research, technology and entrepreneurship. I hope that colleges in Assam will have state-of-art science and computer laboratories. For this we hope to attract the best people to teaching.
What you just said gives a picture of near perfection. If you can achieve at least 50 percent of what you said just now will be a great success. But where will you get the money for it? It needs massive investment.
Yes. If I can achieve 50 percent of the objectives in five years this will be an encouraging start. And regarding the funding, if I can gather like-minded people from all walks of life —doctors, lawyers, professors, students, teachers etc.—apart from politicians and form a big common platform, I believe we can urge the government at the Centre to give more attention to the state.
Why should people vote for you? What difference will you make to the people of Assam in general and to the people of Kaliabor, your constituency in particular?
I have not appeared on the scene suddenly. I have been in the socio-economic sector for long and know how to work for the all-round development of all. I will not quit and keep working until I can execute what I have planned. This is a good enough reason for the people to vote for me.
There is a talk going on that being Tarun Gogoi's son helped you in getting a ticket? What do you have to say on that?
I believe people are extremely wise in their decision. They want emphatic people to come forward and join politics. It is equally important for the people to see the commitment and capability of the politician. I am well-educated and people will find quality in my work. People now prefer young politicians with bright ideas irrespective of their family background. As a matter of fact being from a political family should not disqualify you from entering politics.
Do you believe all sections of Congress are fine with you getting a ticket and there is no dissidence in any corner of the party even silent ones?
Since 2001, Congress has been continuously winning elections in Assam be it panchayat, Assembly or parliamentary. In 2011, we won the Assembly polls with a record margin getting the highest number of seats. This would not have been possible had there been any internal rancor or differences. Our organisation is strong right from the worker to the senior cabinet level. There is no doubt that because of the strong organisational strength we won these elections. This phenomenon will be replicated in the coming Lok Sabha elections.
Many pre-poll surveys are giving Narendra Modi the edge over Congress. Your party may not believe in these surveys but you cannot deny the Modi wave. What is your take on that?
UPA did historic work in lifting people out of poverty and to transform the rural economy in villages. We have brought in significant legislations like the MGNREGA, Land Acquisition Act, RTI, Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana, Rajiv Awas Yojana etc. People from the poor and middle class sections have realised that their quality of life improved under UPA’s social welfare programmes.
The way Modi attacked these socio-economic schemes show their hidden agenda to stop all subsidies and schemes for the poor. To speak specifically about Assam, people in the state are extremely wary of BJP's hidden agenda. The BJP is poaching AGP members but no amount of introduction of new members to the party will help BJP. People in Assam will repose faith in Congress under Rahul Gandhi and help the country to undergo a comprehensive change.
Usually there are complains that MPs from Assam are hardly vocal in Parliament and perhaps it includes the present chief minister as well who remained an MP for long. There are a lot of expectations from you. Will we hear your voice in Parliament if you win?
This is a wrong perception that MPs from Assam don’t speak in Parliament. The MPs from Assam are given due respect by the Central leadership and even entrusted with cabinet responsibilities. In any case I will ensure that the voice of the commonest will reach the well of Parliament.
What kind of threat do you anticipate from the growing clout of AIUDF (All India United Democratic Front)? Don’t you fear with the reach they command in the Muslim community, your voter base which is massive in the community will be eroded?
There is nothing to worry from AIUDF. They are not concerned about the people who vote for them. In 2011, during the floods in my constituency the local AIUDF MLA did not even bother to visit the area. This shows a clear disconnect between the party and the people. There are no chances of an AIUDF victory. I can tell you that there will be no impact on the Congress vote share and the voter base of AIUDF will decrease.
You will be one of the youngest MPs provided you get into the House. What message do you have for the youths of Assam who are battling problems like unemployment, getting misguided by anti-social elements etc.?
Stop blaming someone else for the problems in society and being lazy and unproductive. You should learn to be responsible for your own action. Be a part of the change. I believe the time to sit back and blame others is truly over. Work hard and persevere to build an environment of prosperity and optimism.
How much do you think the social media is aiding you in your endeavour? Is it making any extra impact apart from the traditional electioneering methods like roadshows, banners, public rallies etc.?
On social media we get to know the feedback of the people from al backgrounds. This gives me a chance to learn, correct and connect with the young people. I can also identify with their aspirations and communicate the intention behind my own work.
Before we conclude, who do you consider as your role model?
I have always considered my father as my living role model for his humility, sincerity and the commitment with which he approaches politics. I also admire Rahul Gandhi’s vision for India. I am indeed excited to ensure that we will be able to bring upon systemic change in politics and a substantial change in governance.
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