Akhil Gogoi made history after becoming the first Assamese to win an election despite not taking part in the campaigns run by his party- all this while being in jail. He clenched the seat by a margin of 9,064 votes, defeating opponent Surabhi Rajkonwari who contested on BJP’s ticket.
Imprisoned since December 2019, the peasant activist has been named in several cases, one of which was his participation in the anti-CAA protests of that year that gained him sedition charges. Though he was initially rumored to be contesting from the Congress’s side, he later entered the elections as the President of the newly launched Raijor Dal after the Congress gave its ticket to Subhramitra Gogoi. While Gogoi won the contest, the latter came third.
Being in jail dint stop the RTI activist from campaigning and reaching out to the people of Assam. He wrote many open letters stressing on the issues that need immediate attention and resolution.
A major chunk of his victory’s credit perhaps goes to his mother Priyada Gogoi who remained active and campaigned for her son despite her old age. The act captured the attention and hearts of infamous social activists Medha Patkar and Sandeep Pandey as they reached Upper Assam to volunteer and gave their voice to the 85-year-old woman to help her in the campaign.
Apart from this, several members and young volunteers of the Raijor Dal joined in and carried out door-to-door campaigns to attract the maximum number of votes.
The tireless, frantic, and expensive campaigning strategies of the BJP couldn’t match up to the individual framing of Akhil Gogoi as Rajkonwar of BJP lost to him despite top leaders like Union Minister Smriti Irani flying down to the state to address the Sibsagar people.
The 46-year-old chief of Raijor Dal was previously a general secretary of the Cotton College Student’s Union in the years 1995-1996. He passed as a graduate from the same college of Guwahati and served as an anti-corruption activist leading many protests across the state. He also heads the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (KMSS).
Akhil Gogoi steered many causes including protests for the land rights of the indigenous people, construction of big dams in ecologically sensitive areas. His social work has fetched him several cases from the state governments that ruled during the period.
He was arrested finally in December 2019 after a case was filed against him in the Chabua police station in Assam’s Dibrugarh district. IPC sections accounting for unlawful assembly, criminal conspiracy, rioting were noted in the FIR while sections 15 (1) (a)/16 of UAPA were added later. Mr Gogoi hasn’t been sent for trial yet.
The case was then transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for allegedly involving in the anti-CAA protests. The NIA filed a charge sheet in June over the matter and named him guilty for conspiring and targeting a specific community to rattle the unity and integrity of India.
According to political analyst Atiqur Rahman Burbhuiya, Akhil Gogoi will remain in history as the first in Assam and the second leader in the country to create such an impact after former union minister George Fernandes. The latter was imprisoned in Muzaffarpur’s jail in Bihar and yet managed to win the 1977 Lok Sabha elections by a whooping 3 lakh votes.
Rahman Barbhuiya said, “Gogoi won because he identified with the indigenous sentiments. People considered him as their spokesperson.” Raijor Dal members say they will be filing petitions in the court, asking for Gogoi’s presence in the oath-taking ceremony at least.
They also organized a press conference on Monday in Guwahati to share Mr Gogoi’s gratitude with everyone.
His letter read, “I express deep gratitude to the people of Assam for supporting me by going against the government. I thank each and every one of those who supported me. I thank the new government and urge them to ensure that everyone should get free vaccines. The government should organize vaccine camps in villages and at panchayat level for the people.”
“Regionalism has won… those who have humanity (must) support the regionalism and the process of strengthening regionalism has been started in Assam. With a new idea regionalism will come up among the people of Assam,” Mr Gogoi wrote.