All exit polls have already shown him the door but Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, ensconced in a high-back chair in the sitting room of his hilltop residence, is so confident of returning to power that “for the last two-three days, I have even stopped taking my blood pressure pills”.
On the eve of the assembly poll results, Gogoi, who has been chief minister for three consecutive terms, refuses to even discuss a scenario of the Congress falling short of the half-way mark in the 126-seat House. “What is the point of answering questions like what if? Who knows what will happen tomorrow, why get into speculation? I know we will form the ministry tomorrow and the Congress will get a majority on its own, without anybody. It has been a regular day for me, I met well-wishers, gave interviews. Nothing has been different for me.”
Is he tense? “Not at all. In fact, people talk of rising blood pressure but for the last two-three days, I have even stopped taking my blood pressure medicine. I normally have Telma. I do not know how, but my blood pressure has been normal for the last few days. Even my blood sugar is normal, despite the fact that I am diabetic and hypertensive,” Gogoi said.
A few kilometres from his Khanapara home is Rajiv Bhawan, the Congress office. There is no mistaking the anxiety there. Debates rage on the constitutional position if, in the event of a hung result, the Governor calls the largest political party or a pre-poll formation which has the requisite numbers.
There is also talk of the “price” the Congress may need to pay to cobble together a post-poll understanding with the AGP which fought the elections with the BJP and BPF by its side. Some even quote unnamed media reports about Gogoi making a statement of “making a sacrifice” for the sake of the party.
Bunkum, says Gogoi. “I am not saying that I will be the next chief minister of Assam but that person will certainly be a Congressman. Why should I bother what my party is speculating? See, I take feedback from them but I also get feedback from the ground. There is nothing to this.”
The morrow, he says, will be like any other result day. “I visit a temple, a mosque, a church and a Namghar every time. This time too, I will do the same. That’s it.”
He will not talk about the possible role the Governor may play in the event of a hung result. But he keeps referring to Governor P B Acharya as a “RSS pracharak”. He said he has also held several meetings with the Chief Secretary and police to ensure there is no law and order violation on counting day.
But if Gogoi sounds confident, so does the BJP. The party office at Hengrabari already wears a festive look. It has been lit up and a giant screen has been placed at the entrance. The BJP’s chief ministerial candidate, Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, is in his constituency Majuli. Former minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was once called Gogoi’s blue-eyed boy before he switched sides last year, flew down from Delhi Wednesday evening.