Three-time former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi is the tallest leader of the Congress in Northeast, who was instrumental in scripting victories for the party in Assam thrice on the trot from 2001. Gearing up for a hectic poll campaign at 83, the still vibrant leader opens up to TNIE on all issues political:
What are your views on Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 which kept Northeast on the edge for a few months?
The states in India were created on the basis of language and culture and traditions, not on religion. Therefore, there cannot be a Bill on the basis of a religion. This is precisely because it goes against the principles of our Constitution. In any case, what is the need for a Citizenship Bill? There are no large-scale complaints about harassment (of non-Muslims) in Bangladesh or Pakistan. Even today, there are more than two crore Hindus living in Bangladesh. There haven’t been complaints about them being subjected to harassment or religious persecution. There is no precedent for such a law anywhere in the world. Even Pakistan, which is not a secular country, does not have a law protecting the interests Muslims, who are harassed elsewhere in the world.
The Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) has struck an alliance with the BJP despite the move being opposed by a section of its leaders. Do you see a future for the AGP?
After the AGP forged a pre-poll alliance with the BJP, despite the latter’s assertion that it will pursue the Citizenship Amendment Bill if voted to power, I don’t see a future of the party. The AGP has betrayed the people of Assam. The alliance was sealed to serve its sheer lust for power. The people of Assam will not forgive the AGP.
Will the AGP-BJP alliance be a threat to the Congress?
No threat at all. It is, in fact, going to help us. People know we have been fighting against the Citizenship Bill. They have realized that Congress is committed. So, the only choice left to them is Congress. I am very optimistic they will vote for us. As I see it, the AGP-BJP alliance is a blessing in disguise for the Congress.
Can the minority-based All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF), led by Lok Sabha member Maulana Badruddin Ajmal, be an option for the Congress in its hunt for allies?
Congress cannot go for an illicit marriage. I personally favour a love marriage instead of an illicit marriage. I will not endorse an alliance between the two parties.
Are PM Modi and the BJP politicising the Pulwama terror attack and the events following the incident?
They (BJP) are raising all such issues to cover up their failure. Why are they taking shelter under it? The Indian Air Force had done an excellent job and we are all proud of it. The armed forces belong to the whole country and not to one political party. Since the BJP failed to deliver on its promises, it is playing on the sacrifices of our forces to curry favour with voters. Our economy is in very bad shape. All sectors are lagging. Instead of giving a true picture to the people, the Prime Minister is trying to use the sacrifices and valour of our armed forces to derive political capital.
Has Modi been able to deliver on promises made to people in the Northeast?
He has utterly failed to fulfill his promises. He had promised to drive out illegal immigrants after May 16, 2014. After coming to power, he did nothing to that end. The NDA has not done anything to stop the flow of illegal migrants into Assam. Today, the BJP doesn’t talk about the immigrants or creating jobs or granting Scheduled Tribes status to 6 communities in Assam, as it had promised.