No fight with Gogoi, says Modi

PM confident that Sonowal will be the next Assam chief minister; dwells on development agenda

By Avik ChakrabortyAdditional reporting by Vinod Kumar Singh in Dhemaji, Pranab Kumar Das in Tezpur and Ritupallab Saikia in Golaghat in Tinsukia
  • Published 27.03.16
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi being felicitated at Jamunamukh in Tinsukia on Saturday. Picture by UB Photos

Tinsukia, March 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today ruled out a fight with Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi, who turns 80 next month, in the Assembly elections and instead sought his blessings.

"I am small (younger) in front of Gogoi ji. Your age is such that I respect you and I have no fight with you. Our culture teaches us not to fight with our elders and they give blessings to young ones," said Modi, addressing a 20,000-strong gathering in this tea town in Upper Assam, while campaigning for BJP candidate Sanjoy Kishan. "My fight is not against Gogoi but against poverty and corruption and for a developed Assam."

Kishan is pitted against Congress MLA Rajendra Prasad Singh. Both belong to the Hindi-speaking community, which has a sizeable population in Tinsukia.

Gogoi, who is confident of becoming chief minister for the fourth consecutive time, has in the past couple of months said that this election would be a fight with Modi, downplaying BJP's chief ministerial candidate and Union sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal and his former colleague Himanta Biswa Sarma. The duo are leading the BJP's campaign to counter Congress's claim about "15 years of trust and development".

"Sonowal is one of the best ministers at the Centre. So the Assam elections will cause a loss to me as I will have to send him (Sonowal) to serve Assam (as the new chief minister). He is a simple, young and dedicated leader and there is only one wave in Assam now - the wave of happiness...happiness for all ( sarbanand). I can clearly see that after this elections Assam will have a young chief minister," Modi said, countering Gogoi's charge that Sonowal had failed as a Union minister.

Modi promised to make Tinsukia happy. "The name is Tinsukia but I can see unhappy people ( dukhia) all around. It is our promise to transform Tinsukia into a happy (sukhia) place."

Modi, who wished the crowd for Rongali Bihu in Assamese, also took a jibe at Congress's claim of development stating that Assam was one of the under-developed states though it used to be among the five most developed states during Independence. "Who committed the sin of making a rich state poor? Who has taken Assam to such a state? Who destroyed Assam? Who has increased unemployment? People are still dying for electricity more than six decades after Independence," Modi said while listing 2,000 villages were unelectrified in Assam when he assumed office. "We have put up electric poles in about 1,000 villages and electricity will reach them soon."

Modi said the condition of the tea garden workers was the worst though Assam tea was famous across the world. Recalling his days as a tea-seller, Modi said he shares a special bond with the people of Assam. "It was your tea I sold to people during my childhood," he said.

"Development, speedier development and all-round development" was his focus, which many BJP workers described as the NDA government's "3D agenda".

Modi said the Centre had already started work to improve railways and roads in the state and rejected the Congress's allegation of doing nothing for the state after his government came to power.

Later, addressing a rally in Bihpuria constituency in Lakhimpur district, Modi said curbing infiltration by sealing the international border would be the BJP's priority if it came to power in Assam. He promised to create model villages in the border areas where residents would assist the security personnel in curbing infiltration and crime. BJP president Amit Shah had made a similar promise yesterday.

"The state had its own Prime Minister for 10 years but there is no visible development. The Congress is responsible for the degradation," Modi said while referring to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a Rajya Sabha member from Assam.

The BJP has fielded Debananda Hazarika, who is likely to face a tough fight against MLA and AICC secretary Bhupen Kumar Borah.

While campaigning in Bokakhat for Atul Bora, the president of its ally AGP, Modi alleged the Congress government failed to stop rhino poaching. "Without political leverage and support, repeated killings of the rhinos is not possible," he said.