A Peoples’ Leader Dies: Tarun Gogoi No More!


He has been much more than just a political leader; he has been an excellent human being with an ever-smiling face, friendly and spontaneous manners, a typical pure Assamese flavor in his warm communications, his deep roots in Assamese culture, his interest in fine arts and love for all forms of music, and an endearing lovable personality. Even in his ripe old age he used to mix with his admirers/supporters like one of them, talking to them in a warm personal tone, singing and dancing with them. Throughout his eventful political career, he maintained his clean image, at times against tremendous odds. People of Assam respected him as much as they loved him. We used to refer to him as Tarunda (like an elder brother) in our Assamese friends’ circles, and we were all fond and proud of him: as a leader who could articulate the state’s problems to the central leaders and in Parliament, and as a central Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Food under former Prime Minister PV Narsimha Rao. No doubt, there have been non-stop community prayers in the whole of Assam for the last two days for his recovery, transcending all political, ideological and religious barriers.  


Tarun Gogoi, the longest-serving former Chief Minister of Assam with his three consecutive terms from 2001 to 2016 and a Congress stalwart of India, passed away today evening in Guwahati Medical College & Hospital (GMCH) at the age of 86. He had been fighting the dreaded COVID-19 virus since the month of August. On August 26 he was tested positive and was admitted in GMCH immediately. For more than a month he had been treated by a team of doctors under the full supervision of the state government, and was also given blood plasma therapy. The born-fighter defeated the virus and was discharged in early October. However, after a few days he started developing post-COVID complications and was admitted again in GMCH late October. His condition deteriorated gradually and he had been in life-support for the last two days with almost total organ failure. Finally, he succumbed, perhaps due to his age and comorbidities. And, Assam and the Indian National Congress lost one of their most successful leaders-statesmen.


Tarun Gogoi had been six-time Member of Parliament during 1971-2002, from his home constituency Jorhat and later Kaliabor. He was made Joint Secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in 1976 under the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, and later he served as the General Secretary of AICC from 1985 to 1990 under the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and during this time he also worked as President of Assam State Congress. After serving as a central Minister from 1991 to 1995 Tarun Gogoi started focusing on his home state of Assam, and contested elections for the Assam Legislative Assembly successfully several times since then. In May 2001 he became the Chief Minister of Assam, and then repeated overwhelming Congress victories in 2006 and 2011 to complete his three terms.


Tarun Gogoi suffered his first major political setback in 2014 when his party could win only 3 seats out of 14 in Assam in the General Elections-2014. As in national scenario anti-incumbency waves strengthened in the state and like the huge corruption scams that rocked the Congress-led UPA government the Gogoi government too faced charges of unprecedented corruption. Besides, he also had to tackle growing dissidence within the state Congress party. Finally, in the Assembly Elections of 2016 the resurgent BJP dethroned his government with an overwhelming majority. Tarun Gogoi continued to be a prominent opposition leader despite his age and health issues. With the decline of the Congress party nationally, Assam Congress again had to remain content with 3 seats in the General Elections-2019. Yet, his clean image as a peoples’ leader remained intact notwithstanding the tremendous ups and downs, and the swings of fortune.


Tarun Gogoi was born in October 1934 into an ethnic Tai-Ahom family of Assam in the erstwhile Sibsagar district. He completed his high-school and college education in Jorhat, and then obtained an LLB degree from the Guwhati University. Gogoi started his public career by becoming a member of the Jorhat Municipal Board in 1968, and after that there was no looking back.


People of Assam will sorely miss his jovial personality, his secular stand, his political jibes laced with humor and his role as a competent political opposition leader. Assam State Congress too is going to miss his reassuring presence, his guidance and his statesmanship with Assembly elections due in about six months. Till August this year the great leader had been in prime attention all around and was actively engaged in the process of chalking out possible alliances against the BJP in light of the growth of regional parties in Assam in recent months. Tarun Gogoi leaves behind his wife, a daughter and son Gaurav Gogoi who has been emerging as a promising new-generation Congress leader.


We salute an able son of Assam and one of the greatest political leaders of the nation. As the state government of Assam observes a three-day state mourning, we join in the prayers for the eternal bliss of his noble soul.