By– Priyankan Goswami
The recent big news in all newspapers of Assam have been the surprise visits made to their respective departments by some newly sworn in Ministers. This is seen to be done by especially those accused with corruption before the elections. Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma visited the civil hospital at Barpeta and took action on the officials who were absent, following this by an even severe action on officials of the state education department at Kahilipara, Guwahati. Chandan Brahma was found on the streets of Guwahati taking action on old vehicles whose registrations have expired. Few others have been following such actions as well.
Such actions by ministers, similar to what was shown in the bollywood movie “Nayak” are not new in India. Nitish Kumar did it in Bihar, Narendra Modi did it many times in Gujarat (and he succeeded quite well) and few days before the Assam ministry was formed, Mamata Banerjee did the same in West Bengal. These steps not only create a hope for better management, but also create a strong public image of the minister.
It is too early to predict if the departments under Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma or Chandan Brahma would actually flourish and develop. But one thing is for sure; – this will create further problems for the already crippled opposition parties of the state.
During the last two tenures, the opposition in Assam had a hard time to find solid reasons to bring down the Congress led Government. Towards the end, they walked on the shadow of Akhil Gogoi and shouted against the mega dams of Arunachal and the thousand crore scandal of NC Hills. However, both these reasons, though strong, failed to impact the people to any effect that could wipe out the Government. The mega dam was a project under Arunachal Government and its power remained with the central government. The NC Hills scandal was of an autonomous council, who is not controlled by the state government.
There was little that either the AGP or the BJP could do to further the regionalism or Assamese nationalism, except playing the same old records and slogans. In fact AIUDF, a minority dominated party emerged better winners as it used the Barpeta uprising of the minorities (against the NRC project)to perfection. AGP or BJP could have used this too, but failed. In fact it is shame for the self proclaimed regionalism agenda of the AGP that AIUDF was able to win the seat at Bhavanipur, where the death of the first martyr of Assam Agitation Khrageshwar Talukdar had occurred.
The biggest failure of the opposition was that it could not find relevant issues, where they were in plenty. Akhil Gogoi made huge outcry against Dr Himanta Biswa Sharma, his old cases, his vehicles and his news channel. The opposition followed him, but none of the leaders of AGP or BJP had the thought of using Himanta complete failure as a minister of IT. Under Himanta’s tenure, the IT sector of Assam remained null and zero when all over the country, this was used as the biggest source of revenue, employment and development. Apart from bringing Richard Stallman from Free Software Foundation, holding corporate meetings there was nothing at all. In fact the State IT department and AMTRON indulged in various activities which were against the people of Assam. For example, there was a Request for Proposal (RFP) floated inviting IT companies to develop the State Government’s web portal. However it demanded that the company offering its services should have a turn over of revenues exceeding 15 crores in the last 3 years. This meant that the company had to earn over 5 crores revenue per year, which is not a joke. The talented and aspiring entrepreneurs and the IT firms of Assam had no chance to even apply for it. This was seen in many other instances where the IT aspirants of the state were crushed. The opposition not only failed to use it as regionalism propaganda, it could not even realize the potential. Finally it was Tarun Gogoi himself who realized the complete failure of Himanta in IT and decided not to allot him this department this time.
The main issue which AGP and BJP have been trying to use is the non fulfillment of the Assam Accord. Though the influx of illegal Bangladeshis still continues, the only main part pending in the Assam Accord is the National Registry of Citizens (NRC). Other demands such as an IIT, two central universities (Tezpur and Slichar), Shankardev Kalakhetra, oil refinery (at an expenditure of 2500 crore) have been set up already. This time, if Himanta Biswa Sharma succeeds in completing the NRC under his tenure there will be nothing left from the Assam Accord to have left. Especially now that AIUDF is the main opposition and not AGP, completion of the NRC and the Assam Accord fulfillment will ensure Congress can claim big in next elections.
On the other hand, the people of Assam have been hoping for a permanent solution of the issues of Assam through the Lateral Talks between ULFA and Government of India. If the ULFA leadership succeeds in the next five years to bring in better rights and privileges of Assam as per the demand charter, there is no doubt that they will be held in the highest esteem by the people. The respect would be gained for ULFA and lost for all opposition! There is no doubt that the struggle that AGP or BJP has to make in the next 5 years is like hundred years of struggle.
Priyankan Goswami is the Editor of Times of Assam’s Political Analysis section. He is also founder member and member of the Executive board of Times of Assam.
By Academic Priyankan Goswami is MBA & Mechanical Engineer.