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Himanta Biswa Sarma vs Gaurav Gogoi: Saga of bad blood marked with succession row, thwarted ambition

The open war of words raging between Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Congress leader Gaurav Gogoi is a sequel to a decade of animosity between the two leaders.

Over the last week, Gaurav, the Lok Sabha MP from Kaliabor, went on an offensive against Himanta, alleging that the CM had used his influence to secure approval for a Rs 10 crore grant under a Central government scheme for a media company run by his wife Riniki Bhuyan Sarma. Himanta rejected Gaurav’s charges, denying that his wife and her company had claimed or received any subsidy from the Centre.

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What started as a heated exchange between Gaurav and Himanta over these allegations quickly descended into a bristling spat between them.

Amid their sparring on X, Himanta, keeping his guns trained on Gaurav, stated last Thursday: “Yes, I am agitated. There have been numerous reasons for my anger against your (Gaurav’s) family since 2010. I am confident that we will meet in court, and once again, I will be able to prove my point. I have successfully done so in 2016 and 2021, and I am determined to do it again….”

Their tussle got more bitter and personal as Himanta posted a statement, referring to Gaurav’s father late Tarun Gogoi, the former Assam CM and Congress stalwart, without naming him. “During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, one of Assam’s tallest politicians experienced post-Covid complications. WE advised his family to transfer him to Delhi for better treatment, with the state government covering the expenses. However, his distinguished son refused to take the patient to Delhi,” Himanta said.

Tarun had passed away on November 23, 2020 in Guwahati Medical College and Hospital after battling with the post-Covid complications.

Read | Firm run by Assam CM’s wife got Rs 10 cr under central scheme, says Gaurav Gogoi; Himanta denies

Stung by Himanta’s post, Gaurav hit back by putting out an old video showing his father as saying, “I have never met a person who could touch my feet and put a dagger in my back at the same time.”

Protracted face-off

The barbs exchanged between Himanta and Gaurav put their protracted face-off under spotlight again.

During his stint with the Congress, Himanta rose quickly in the party. He got elected as an MLA on the Congress ticket for consecutive three terms since 2001. The then CM Tarun Gogoi inducted him into his Cabinet, allotting him important portfolios like Health and Education. He became one of Tarun’s close lieutenants.

After the April 2011 Assam Assembly elections, the rifts in the relations between Tarun and Himanta appeared, which was centred on the former’s bid to get his son Gaurav into the public life.

Himanta had assisted Tarun in managing the 2011 Assembly elections in which the Congress had again emerged as the victor, winning 79 of the state’s total 126 seats. That election also saw Gaurav’s entry into politics as he actively campaigned for the party.

In 2012, Gaurav formally joined the Congress and was immediately seen as Tarun’s successor, even as Himanta was looking to assume his political legacy keeping the CM’s chair in his sights.

With Tarun continuing to promote Gaurav in the Congress, Himanta fell out with the former.

Gaurav launched his electoral debut in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from the Kaliabor Lok Sabha constituency, which he won comfortably.

Himanta’s eventual exit from the Congress took place in 2015 as his tussle with Tarun hit a flashpoint.

In his resignation letter addressed to then Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Himanta lashed out at the “despotic family-centric politics”.

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“Our collective dream to make Assam a front-ranking state shattered at the whims and fancies of a single individual. A despotic family-centric politics constantly emboldened by a bunch of sycophants had never allowed a rational and neutral voice to reach to the Congress leadership in the state,” Himanta wrote to Sonia.

“Entire party dispensation in Assam is obsessed with one agenda, i.e how to give party nomination to their son and daughter. However, for people like me who have no blue blood but a passion for a developed nation and a resurgent Assam, it’s time to move on,” Himanta stated in his letter.

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Himanta then joined the BJP, going on to become the CM after the party returned to power by winning the 2021 Assembly polls. Gaurav became the Congress’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha and was recently named by Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge as one of the Congress Working Committee (CWC) members. Himanta and Gaurav have however continued to cross swords on various issues.

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