As Congress grapples to regain lost ground, three-time Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi has said a combination of Rahul Gandhi’s initiatives and Sonia Gandhi’s maturity and experience will help the party shore up its fortunes after a string of electoral defeats including the worst ever debacle in Lok Sabha polls.
Gogoi, who led Congress to three consecutive victories in Assembly polls in Assam since 2001, said Rahul believed in “gradual” progression and Sonia has to continue mentoring him for Congress’ revival.
Exuding confidence in Rahul’s leadership, Gogoi described the party Vice President as a “steady fellow” who has taken number of new initiatives keeping in mind his long-term vision for the party.
“I have full confidence in him. I have worked with Indiraji, Rajivji and Soniaji. He is a steady fellow who wants to go in a gradual way. The step-by-step approach is good instead of going abruptly,” the Assam Chief Minister told PTI in an interview.
Asked whether Rahul, seen as “reluctant heir”, should take full responsibility of Congress, 78-year-old Gogoi, the most prominent face of Congress in North-East, said, “Soniaji has to mentor him.
“We need her maturity, guidance experience and at the same time Rahul’s new initiative. It should be combination of both.”
After Congress’ electoral drubbing in Lok Sabha polls, a number of Congress leaders have been pitching for “full leadership” for Rahul. The party faced heavy defeats in assembly polls in Maharashtra and Haryana as well.
On demands by various leaders to bring Priyanka Gandhi to a significant position in the party, Gogoi said it was for the Gandhi family to take a call on it.
“It is up to them. She has been working for the party. It is up to her. Nobody can force anyone.”
Queried whether he will lead the party in the 2016 assembly polls, Gogoi, who is credited with pulling Assam back from the brink of bankruptcy, only said he will campaign vigorously.
Gogoi said though BJP won seven seats out of 14 in Lok Sabha polls, the party’s support base was eroding as people who expected “achhe din” were totally disappointed by Narendra Modi government which had not been able to fulfil the promises made during campaign.
Congress had won only three seats in the state.
“People of Assam have not seen any ‘acche din’. Prices have not come down. The NDA government did not bother to help Assam during floods. They sanctioned money to Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir but not to Assam. So people are disappointed,” Gogoi claimed.
Sounding confident of Congress’ victory in 2016 assembly polls, he said there has been a “vast difference” in approach towards North East by the UPA and the current NDA dispensation and that people of state have realised it.
On Modi’s performance in the last six months, Gogoi said people will give him some more time though he has failed to live up to the expectations on many fronts including containing price rise.
“Publicity-wise, yes, I must say he has ‘done well’. But what about the promises. Have the prices gone down. Why has the government decided not to fill up the vacancies.
People are asking these questions,” the Assam Chief Minister said.
About reports of possibility of former Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma quitting Congress, Gogoi only said many “stalwarts” had left the party but it was never affected.
“I have been in Congress. I have seen many, many Congress leaders including former Chief Ministers leaving Congress even during Indira Gandhi’s time. I have seen ups and down in Congress’ history. It is common workers who are important. Congress is alive because of Congress’ ideology, because of the common workers,” he said.
Sharma, who led a group of dissident Congress MLAs demanding change in leadership, had quit the Cabinet in July.
When asked whether he will be able to bring ULFA leader Paresh Barua to the negotiating table, Gogoi said he was trying and expressed hope that the militant outfit will shun violence and join the mainstream.
“I am trying. I cannot say 100 per cent. He is in the grip of many other forces,” Gogoi said.