Enemies within can land a government in worse trouble than those without. A weak and divided Opposition may have made Assamís chief minister, Tarun Gogoi, too complacent to worry about his own team. The huge corruption scandal that has now hit his government tests his skills as both a politician and an administrator. Whether the money involved in the corruption case amounts to Rs 1,000 crore or more is irrelevant. There is enough evidence to suggest that the allegation has a strong basis. Mr Gogoi has admitted as much by handing over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation. But that action alone may not clear the state governmentís name. Nor does Mr Gogoiís responsibility end there. Allegations have been made about the involvement of several members of his cabinet in the scandal. The chief minister must send out the signal that he is not anxious to protect his tainted colleagues. More important, he needs to convince his critics that the swindling of public funds is not a matter of the ruling Congressís internal politics.
In his two terms in office, Mr Gogoi has done much to improve things in Assam. The stateís law and order is a lot better than what it was during the tenure of the government led by the Asom Gana Parishad. The chief minister can also legitimately take credit for the peace talks he initiated with several rebel groups. The strategies of the Union government may have helped him, but Mr Gogoi has played his part well in persuading the leaders of the United Liberation Front of Asom to join the peace initiatives. It is in the interest of not just his own image but also of the state that he should come clean on the corruption issue. Also, the fact that it involves an autonomous council in the North Cachar Hills is politically significant. Assam has several such councils that supposedly uphold self-rule for ethnic minorities. Stealing funds meant for the economic welfare of such people is a betrayal of their hope in the benefits of self-rule and democracy.