Akhil Gogoi’s win in the Assam Assembly Election 2021 is an epochal event in the contemporary political history of Assam. Apart from Akhil Gogoi’s win in this election, however, there is nothing new politically – this election was just a reoccurrence. In reality, there have only been two significant events that took place in politics in Assam since 2014: the first is the entry of the BJP as a significant force and the party subsequently establishing its complete dominance, and the second is the anti-CAA movement against this dominance. The BJP coming to power in Assam in 2016 was the first proof of their increasing dominance in Assam’s society and politics. The anti-CAA movement put forward a critique and resistance against this dominance. But the storm that the anti-CAA movement was blew out prematurely because of a lack of ideologically cogent and organsationally strong national-popular political force to carry forward the movement politically. Therefore the movement could not be able to create an obstacle to halt the chariot of the BJP. Nevertheless, after these two events, Akhil Gogoi’s victory in the legislative assembly election is the most important political event. The people of the Sibsagar Assembly Constituency ensured that the dignity of Assam’s politics of resistance and struggles is retained. It is not commonplace to see people registering their support en masse for a candidate incarcerated by the Indian State on baseless charges – it was made possible by coming together of the organisations, the people, and Gogoi’s history of long, steadfast political struggles. Therefore it is a moment to cherish despite the overall besetting cloud of despair.
But at the same time, we have also pushed Akhil Gogoi into a political quandary. When a political force enters the legislature from a protest movement, it usually takes with it the movement or at least the popular forces engendered by the movement. Indian politics is filled with many such instances. But in the case of Akhil Gogoi, it is the reverse that has happened – the leader has managed to reach the other side, but the movement has remained on this side. Gogoi has entered the legislative assembly alone, the movement has stayed in the streets. It is a very strange and uncomfortable situation. This would certainly become the biggest problem for Gogoi. Gogoi himself said that he wanted to become the voice of the people of Assam in the state legislative assembly. There is not an iota of doubt that an uncompromising and dauntless people’s leader like him would be able to bear that responsibility with ease. But who will be behind him?
Earlier when he led protests in the streets, he had a solid base and organic support. But because of the limitations of being a member of the legislative assembly, he will now be able to garner only virtual support. Virtual supports do have any formal or legal force. Akhil Gogoi and the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) did rely on the media before, but now because of the absence of an active organisational relation, media is going to become the primary mediator. It is because of this, even if an issue is presented in the legislative assembly most forcefully and in the best possible way, it is going to be difficult to take it forward politically. On the other hand, we can say this without doubt that whether it is the legislative assembly or any other institution, no institution of the State is capable enough to tame and domesticate Akhil Gogoi. But many would consider his entry to the legislative assembly as his domestication, and are going to make use of him in that way. As a result of this, he might receive support of many who would otherwise not even support him in their dreams. All of these would build moral pressure on him, regarding which the media would always be vociferous certainly – so that he gives up the wild ferocity of his pre- MLA life and learns parliamentary behaviour like a good boy! We can assume that this moral pressure would also give rise to some obstacles for him. Therefore it is important to realise such potential problems beforehand and think about how to overcome those.
At the same time, how will the KMSS function without Akhil Gogoi; how will the peasant liberation movement be carried forward; will there be any relation between the protest movements in the streets and Akhil Gogoi’s legislative work, and if there will be one, what type of relation that will be and how will that relation be maintained – these are fundamental questions. Gogoi’s election is a temporary arrangement amid the storm of overall political instability. In such a situation, it is wrong to seek correct and permanent answers to the abovementioned questions. But it is important to raise these questions nevertheless, so that a path may be paved to develop some correct and effective working strategies. On the other hand, sometimes Akhil Gogoi had taken some self- contradictory and irresponsible positions in the past, sometimes he had resorted to trickery too. But a people’s leader to whom the people’s camaraderie and support are unquestionable, who has passed the crucible of struggles time and time again, there is no need for him to prove himself anew, there is no need for him to give clarifications to anyone, there is no need for him to flatter anyone. He just needs to carry forward the struggle, the people will be with him. Because the people know him, they believe in him. Therefore we hope that he would think about this too.
We hope that instead of becoming a cage, the state legislative assembly becomes a wrestling ring for Akhil Gogoi, where he would be able to pin the rulers. We pin our hopes on him, and we wish him the best!
Translated from Axomiya by Biswajit K Bora