His ever-sporting smile and the greatest quality of tolerating criticism are what made Tarun Da that rare politician. His simplicity, village boy image and smile made him the darling of the masses. He could easily mingle with the common man. People never felt that they were with a chief minister.
I came to know Tarun Da from close quarters during my college days in the 1950s. He was the president of JB College Students’ Union in Jorhat and I was its general secretary. He was a year senior to me. We used to come to Guwahati to take part in inter-college sports tournaments. Most states of the Northeast were then part of Assam and the students from there also used to participate. We used to come under Tarun Da’s leadership. Society was conservative at that time. Tarun Da was young but our guardians trusted him. He was a man of character. So, out parents never opposed and we used to travel with him to take part in the events.
Although Tarun Da was known for his signature smile during his political career, he scarcely smiled when he was a student. During our trips to Guwahati, we used to travel by train. We all would make a lot of noise but he would remain silent. We would often request him to sing a song. Once he gave in and belted out a song, much to our joy.
After I got married, we rarely met. I took active part in the historic Assam Agitation and joined the Asom Gana Parishad, after which we came in close contact again. There was no change in him. He could tackle every problem in his political career with a smile. No matter how much one criticised him, as I would do, he would never retaliate. He had that rare quality.
While he was serving as the chief minister, he would often invite his old friends from the JB College at his residence in the evenings. We used to have ‘addas’ and a very good time with him. He served as chief minister for 15 years. There was dissidence against him but he faced it with a smile. He was not a great intellectual but he was intelligent and had natural instincts. He could foresee things. He could predict about events unfolding. I can’t accept the death of such a great friend. I met him last three months ago. His departure has created a void in politics but he will continue to live in our hearts.
Former BJP MP from Guwahati, minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.