I planned for A-plus BJP, but got B-minus BJP campaign, says Congress' Gaurav Gogoi

Gaurav Gogoi, a Congress MP from Jorhat in Assam, won the Lok Sabha elections with a margin of 1.44 lakh votes, one of only three victories for the Congress party in the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the State

Published - June 12, 2024 03:20 pm IST - New Delhi

File photo of Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi.

File photo of Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi. | Photo Credit: PTI

Gaurav Gogoi is clear about the recipe for his landmark victory from Jorhat in Assam in the Lok Sabha elections: he expected an A-plus opposition but encountered a B-minus rival campaign. To top it, he says, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's charisma and campaign had little impact.

Thrown into the deep end of an unfamiliar and newly reorganised constituency with only one month to campaign, nobody had given the young Congress star much chance to win. But he took everyone by surprise — admirers as well as detractors by winning the seat with a margin of 1.44 lakh votes.

His was one of only three victories for the Congress party in the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the State. The Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) won nine.

In an interaction with PTI editors at the news agency's headquarters, Mr. Gaurav Gogoi said people also found the Congress a credible platform to vent their anger against the BJP rule, both at the state and national levels.

“In Assam, I saw a very dispirited and weak campaign by the BJP. I was expecting a much more forceful, meaningful, impactful campaign from the BJP and my planning was for that. I planned for an A-plus BJP but I got a B-minus BJP campaign.”

He said he did not see the impact of Mr. Modi even though the Prime Minister had visited Jorhat twice in the run-up to the election. "I was extremely surprised that there was not even one talking point which resonated with the people," he said.

It was quite different in the previous two elections. In 2014, the people of Assam were talking about the Gujarat model, and in 2019 they were caught up with the [national security] events leading to the elections, he said.

"But in 2024, it was a very localised election. People were looking at local issues, state issues. There was no visible, tangible impact of Prime Minister Modi and his campaign," he said.

Besides, there was dissatisfaction among people in his constituency against the BJP dispensation.

"Dissatisfaction is always there. This time people have found in the Congress a credible platform to vent their dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction is against the BJP dispensation.. in Delhi and in Assam," he said.

Mr. Gaurav Gogoi said Jorhat for many reasons was an important election for the BJP, for Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and for his own political plans.

"There are many important reasons for our victory. The Congress gained the trust of the people because the dissatisfaction was always there. Because the factors that went against BJP at the national level in U.P., Rajasthan ... the same factors worked in Assam," he said.

Mr. Gaurav Gogoi's previous constituency Koliabor, which he had represented twice since 2014, ceased to exist following the delimitation of constituencies, and Koliabor was renamed Kaziranga.

To make matters worse, he was told by the party’s high command just 30 days before the elections to contest from Jorhat, a Congress bastion-turned-BJP stronghold that has been won twice by the BJP — by a margin of 82,000 votes in 2019 and by a margin of 1 lakh votes in 2014.

This time, however, Gaurav Gogoi triumphed over BJP's incumbent MP Topon Gogoi.

Both the Gogois are from the Ahom community, which make up 32% of the voters in Jorhat. The constituency is made up of 10 Assembly segments, of which the Congress had won only two, one by an opposition Independent and the rest were with BJP — an indication of the uphill battle that Gaurav Gogoi faced. Incidentally, Kaziranga was won by the BJP with a margin of over 2.4 lakh votes.

"I must say it was a difficult election. Out of 14 constituencies in Assam, my constituency was most radically altered — in terms of demography and geography. Every other constituency did undergo change because of the delimitation.

"But it was slightly less significant in terms of geography and demography. Mine went through a radical change. And I did not know from where I would be contesting. While I continued to be the MP from the old constituency, it was splintered and I had no idea where to go," he said.

Mr. Gaurav Gogoi, who was deputy leader of the Congress in the outgoing Lok Sabha, said the central election committee of the Congress decided he would contest from Jorhat in mid-March.

Had his father, three-time Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, been alive, he would have given guidance in the campaign and familiarised him with the grassroots workers of the constituency, Mr. Gaurav Gogoi said.

"I may know the senior leaders, but I don't know the grassroots workers. I don't know the organisation. I used to go for small panchayat level meetings, collecting [phone] numbers during my campaigning. Because I needed to know who were the people who will spread our message in every nook and corner, who are the people who will take forward our publicity material." That familiarisation period would have been much shorter had his father been there, he said.

"I remembered him, he had the can-do spirit. I think with that spirit, I entered the election and I conducted myself the way he would have conducted -- with lot of aggression but at the same time maintaining the dignity of Assam and politics," he said.

Had his father been alive "we would have a celebratory hug", Mr. Gaurav Gogoi said.

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