Ground Report: Assam Likes Akhil Gogoi, But Will It Vote for Him?

People seem to be confused about Gogoi, who will be contesting from Sivasagar under the banner of Raijor Dal.

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Video Editor: Purnendu Pritam
Cameraperson: Tridip K Mandal

“Akhil Gogoi is in the heart of every person in Assam.”
Vedang Laskar, Vice-President, Raijor Dal
“Akhil Gogoi claims he’s a farmer. But hasn’t really done anything for farmers. He has been mostly protesting.”
Anu Hazarika, Social Worker

These two statements perhaps sum up what the voters of the historical town of Sivasagar think about jailed peasant activist Akhil Gogoi.

Gogoi has been in custody since December 2019 when he was arrested during the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) protests in Assam. He will be contesting the upcoming Assembly polls from Sivasagar under the banner of Raijor Dal, one of the newly formed regional parties in Assam. It is in alliance with the Assam Jatiya Parishad. Both parties are a result of the anti-CAA protests that swept across Assam.

Raijor Dal was launched in October 2020 but perhaps they aren’t fully ready yet to contest the Assembly elections in the state. They couldn’t even register their party symbol in time. Their candidates in 37 constituencies are fighting on different symbols, just like independent candidates. Gogoi’s symbol is the LPG cylinder – perhaps an indication of the shift in priorities for the Raijor Dal from an anti-CAA pitch to more immediate issues like price rise.

Raijor Dal’s party office.
Raijor Dal’s party office.
(Photo: Tridip Mandal)
“We are telling the voters how CAA will affect the voters of Assam. It’s not that it has lost its relevance. But we are also talking about the lack of development, how Sivasagar was never developed as a tourist destination, the problem of flooding.”
Bedabrata Gogoi, Volunteer, Raijor Dal

The fact that Raijor Dal underprepared for the elections becomes more obvious when one visits its headquarters in Sivasagar. It’s a makeshift office operating from a restaurant. When The Quint visited the office, a large group of first-time voters were enrolling for the party’s membership. We spoke to a few of them.

First-time voters enrolling for Raijor Dal’s membership.
First-time voters enrolling for Raijor Dal’s membership.
(Photo: Tridip Mandal)
“I joined Raijor Dal because Akhil Gogoi is a revolutionary leader. Students have joined his campaign to help him win in Sivasagar.”
Jyoti Prasad Sharma, Student
“I am a first-time voter. I have joined the Raijor Dal because Akhil Gogoi is in the jail for the last 15 months fighting for us. He’s suffering.”
Bhagirati Bharali, Student

The Congress has been winning Sivasagar since 2001. However, in the last election, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) lost the seat narrowly by 542 votes.

Sivasagar votes on 27 March, the voters are aware that in Akhil Gogoi they have a high-profile candidate, but they are also aware that politics is different from street activism.

“Politics is a different ball game. We don’t know much about Akhil Gogoi as a political leader. Their party is different.”
Kiran Kalita, Businessman
“We have seen the reality of anti-CAA protests. People who were leading the protests have jumped into politics now. That was their real intention.”
Anu Hazarika, Social Worker

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