This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pritom Joy. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

How Akhil Gogoi And Party Roused Regional Aspirations In Assam And Won The Election

The year was 2001 when senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai, representing NDTV, conducted an interview with then Prime Minister and Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The interview is still available on YouTube and every time I watch it, it gives me a new horizon and hope for a better India. Well, any interview given by the former PM had a different aura because of the kind of originality he possessed and the intent with which he used to give answers.

Coming back to the interview, I remember him replying to Sardesai on a topic regarding regional politics in India. He said that regional politics is going to stay and regional parties support the aspirations of the masses more profoundly than the national parties. He added, however, that regional parties must develop and take on an all-India outlook.

Politics in Assam has a long history of regional aspirations, but over the years, issues of development and Centre-state symmetry of in terms of governance has taken a front seat over local issues. Both the years 1985 and 2021 were fought largely on the issue of regional sentiments as compared to other issues.

While in the case of the former, the newly formed regional party Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) came to power after the signing of the famous Assam Accord, in case of the latter, history was not repeated as the BJP and its allies emerged victorious by bagging 75 out of 126 seats. As the state has witnessed one of the most volatile protests and unrest in the aftermath of the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), such a mandate can be related to the absence of local issues in Assam.

The anti-CAA campaign, spearheaded by Congress-led Mahajot and the two newly formed parties Asom Jatiya Parishad (AJP) and Raijor Dol (RD), did not lead to victory. While the Congress-led alliance bagged 50 seats, Lurin Jyoti Gogoi-led AJP failed to open its account. The other new outfit, RD, registered a single win in the prestigious Sibsagar Assembly constituency. However, Akhil Gogoi’s success got in Sibsagar tells a different story of the larger issue of identity and regional politics in Assam.

Here, the campaign method of the RD deserves appreciation as they easily learned the dominance of money and muscle factor in politics and deciphered an alternative model of winning the election.

Factors like the Congress’ alliance with the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) and its impact in Upper Assam; a three-way contest with the Congress’ stronghold; an ever-increasing influence of the BJP; and the absence of the contestant himself, as Akhil Gogoi was in jail under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for inciting violence against CAA are enough proof that the battle was not an easy one. But a newly formed party just before the elections did it.

Here, the campaign method of the RD deserves appreciation as they easily learned the dominance of money and muscle factor in politics and deciphered an alternative model of winning the election. And this is where this election took a different outlook. The RD divided its workers into fragmented units to ensure that they reach every corner of the constituency. Akhil Gogoi’s letter was published in the highest circulated  newspaper, Assamese Daily Pratidin, freely distributed by party workers in the district. Large processions with the support of Gogoi’s mother and activists including Medha Patekar and Yogendra Yadav were held across the constituency. Bir Lachit Sena and its leader Shrinkhal Chaliha also publicly supported the party during its campaigning.

All these factors contributed to Gogoi’s success in Sibsagar. Interestingly, the Muslim population of the constituency provided unitary support to Gogoi, much like the Muslim support to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi. This is where the efficacy and sound micromanagement of the campaign team can be pointed out as otherwise, there were chances of division of votes with the Congress. This factor helped both the AAP in its two consecutive victories and the increasing tally of both Congress, AIUDF and Akhil Gogoi’s victory in Sibsagar.

Akhil Gogoi, a former student leader of Cotton College, was a peasant leader of the left-wing organisation Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS). Ever since its formation, the collective, under the leadership of Gogoi, has fought against vital issues of Assam, such as the hydropower project on the Brahmaputra and its environmental impact, the rising number of corruption cases in the state, illegal poaching in the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary, exposing the cash for job scam in the APSC, and many more.

Through his activities of organising protest rallies, his support base in the rural hinterland of the state and crowd-pulling oratory skills place him as one of the influential leaders in Assam. And seeing the success of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and Jagan Mohan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh — both of whom are in their current position because of their style of grassroots politics — Gogoi’s success in Sibsagar has many things to say about the presence of the issues of indigenous people of Assam.

I remember hearing Nelson Mandela in his first overseas interview in the New York City College after being President-elect: “A person who changes his principles with whom he/she is dealing cannot lead a nation.” And the same principles can be found in Akhil Gogoi as unlike the congress party he opposed its alliance with AIUDF by citing that it is also a communal party.

When the AGP first came to power in 1985, people had high hopes on them, but they couldn’t live up to those expectations and took Assam backward for many years. Fifteen years of rule by the then Congress brought stability in terms of finance, timely payment of salaries to employees, eradication of insurgency etc.

Later, the BJP’s five-year rule under Sarbananda Sonowal gave the state some infrastructure development, proper dissemination of welfare schemes and checking of the Cash for Job issues in government recruitment as achievements. But the larger issues of illegal migration, confusing status of the NRC, peace in BTR and Karbi Anglong, and high unemployment rate is still far away.

And the role of regional forces is vital for pointing out such issues in the public domain. It is in such a backdrop that the success of RD in Sibsagar has ascertained that politics is uncertain in Assam, and issues of identity and recognition are going to play a larger role in the complex politics of Assam.

You must be to comment.

More from Pritom Joy

Similar Posts

By Ali Qalandar

By You're Wonderful Project;

By shakeel ahmad

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below