It has only been a few days since the firebrand leader and Sivasagar MLA Akhil Gogoi came out of jail, and he is already clear about the path he and his party Raijor Dal (RD) will take in the coming days.
Although Congress performed better in the 2021 Assam Assembly elections compared to the 2016 elections, Gogoi has emerged as the strongest opposition voice in the state for many political observers. This was also illustrated by Gogoi’s spectacular performance in the Assam Assembly Election, winning the Sivasagar seat without campaigning and becoming the first person in Assam to win elections while in prison.
Gogoi had been on trial under various charges since December 2019, including two cases investigated by the National Investigative Agency (NIA) under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Gogoi was one of the many who were arrested by the Assam Police during protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) on charges of spreading violence and sedition in Assam. The only time Gogoi was seen in the public until now was when he was allowed to take oath as an MLA.
And Gogoi is clear of the policies that RD must adopt to become a political force to be reckoned with.
“The federal structure of the Indian Constitution has been arbitrarily turned into a military structure under communal fascism in recent times. Upholding the federal structure of our Constitution will be the utmost priority of Raijor Dal. We are a democratic, regional, nationalist yet progressive party,” said Akhil Gogoi in an interview with Eastmojo.
While new regional forces in Assam were unable to leave a mark in the Assembly elections, Gogoi has claimed that Raijor Dal is not a force to be either undermined or ignored.
“This country has witnessed so many strong regional forces change the course of history. DMK, AAP, TMC – these parties have almost diminished the national parties to nothingness in their home states. We will try to coordinate with these regional forces and pave a new path for our party as well,” Gogoi added.
Raijor Dal was one of the prominent regional parties in Assam to emerge in aftermath of the protests against the CAA. The other newly-formed regional party which was expected to leave a mark in the polls was the Assam Jatiya Parishad (AJP)- formed under the leadership of the former All Assam Students’ Union (AASU) General Secretary Lurinjyoti Gogoi.
But neither Lurinjyoti Gogoi nor the other candidates from AJP or RD played a pivotal role in reducing the seats of the BJP. And this posed many questions regarding the relevance of a progressive regional force in Assam. However, this was also considered to be the only political alternative by many following the mass protests against the CAA a little over a year ago.
Despite Asom Gana Parishad, the old guard of Assam’s regionalism and the largest regional party of the Northeast, winning 9 out of the 26 seats that they contested, Gogoi doesn’t consider them as competition.
“AGP is a decaying force. I don’t think people are as enthusiastic about this party anymore. Raijor Dal doesn’t have much to worry about AGP,” claimed Gogoi.
In the same vein, Akhil Gogoi also stated that RD’s contemporary AJP should not be a factor in the process of the former’s efforts towards establishing itself as the strongest regional force in Assam.
“The current problem that ails Assam is communal fascism. And this can be uprooted only by a regional party that is democratic and progressive. I sense that Assam Jatiya Parishad has not been successful so far in connecting with the larger audience. Their approach became more chauvinistic eventually instead of a progressive one which they claimed to have towards people. This could be a reason why the organisation of the party has not been as strong yet,” Gogoi told EastMojo.
Gogoi founded the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS) — a peasants’ rights organisation—in 2005. Since then, the organisation has had several offshoots, including the political party Raijor Dal.
Over the past sixteen years, KMSS has built a strong base for itself across Assam, including the Barak Valley – where Assamese regionalism or sub-nationalism didn’t visibly find a strong way for itself in the past. The ongoing border dispute between Assam and Mizoram, which recently recorded another incident of clash between the police personnel of both the states, witnessed widespread protests at the border at Hailakandi in November 2020. The protest was organised by the KMSS, which claims to have thousands of members across the valley.
On being asked how will a party with such strong ideas of regionalism be able to penetrate a region where their counterparts have failed to do so thus far, Gogoi said: “Regions like Barak valley have a strong presence of KMSS. Our motive is to convert the KMSS stronghold into the RD baseline. But we will make sure that the organisational base of KMSS remains independent and doesn’t get harmed in this process at all. And the same approach will apply all across Assam.”
It must be pointed out that despite Gogoi’s popularity, Raijor Dal’s performance as a party has not been extraordinary. The only seat in which the party won can be accredited to the widespread popularity, strong base and face value of Akhil Gogoi all over Assam. In the 29 constituencies where the party decided to contest, four seats had an overlap of candidature between RD and their ally AJP. The party members affiliated ‘misunderstanding’ and ‘lack of communication’ as the prime causes behind the candidature in those constituencies while speaking to the media. And while several reasons contributed to Akhil Gogoi’s victory, none of the other constituencies where RD contested recorded even the second-highest vote share.
So how does a political party with only one victory in its hat plan on establishing itself as the strongest of all regional parties in Assam in the times ahead?
“We will be the strongest regional force of Assam within two years. People are enthusiastic about our party all across Assam, and they have started considering us as the only alternative,” Gogoi said.
Raijor Dal has the daunting task of organising a party that goes beyond the constituency of Sivasagar and establish itself as a progressive regional party that it claims to be.
With the Congress party in Assam fast losing its credibility and stronghold that it once had, and regional parties like Asom Gana Parishad and United People’s Party of Liberation (UPPL) coming under the fold of NDA, the BJP in Assam stands unopposed as of now. And while the ruling party is confident that no new regional power can rise to the extent of challenging them, activist-turned-people’s representative Akhil Gogoi believes otherwise.
“The political undercurrents claim that we are being considered as the only alternative by the people. And with this regional force, we will try to form a government in the coming elections of 2026,” Gogoi said.
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