It was 11th October, 1934 and the sun had already risen in a pre-independent India – an India that was witnessing a major turn of events to end the British Raj. However, for Dr Kamaleshwar Gogoi and his wife Usha, things were pretty much different that day as they were anxiously expecting the birth of their fourth child, whom they named Tarun.
Incidentally, Dr Gogoi, a trained medical professional, and an ardent animal lover was strangely overwhelmed by the desire to own an elephant and thus, sent the word out.
A few hours later, the Gogoi’s were blessed with a baby boy. Fortunately for Dr Gogoi, the baby was not the sole visitor that day – a group of people had finally brought the elephant that he was looking for!
In fact, for Ghanakanti, Tarun Gogoi’s grandmother, the arrival of the elephant on the day the baby was born was a good omen. She was convinced that the little boy would grow up to be a famous man. The grandmother’s prediction proved prophetic – Tarun Gogoi went on to become the Chief Minister of Assam for 15 years in a row.
Fondly called Punakon by his parents, Tarun Gogoi’s days as a child at the Rangajan Tea Estate was mostly about spending time with the plethora of pets owned by his father. There were monkeys, dogs, and several songbirds of the crow family. If he enjoyed watching the animals, Punakon also had a number of boys of his age for company.
Education was a top priority for the Gogoi’s. The only facility in the vicinity was the Number 26 Rangajan Nimna Prathamik Vidyalaya, a lower primary institution set up in 1884. This was the school where Tarun Gogoi began his life as a student and spent four years.
Later, Tarun Gogoi’s parents enrolled him at the Madrassa School in Jorhat in 1945. That was the year when two stalwarts of the Indian national movement, Jawaharlal Nehru and Aruna Asaf Ali visited the town. A young Tarun was in complete awe of Pandit Nehru when he got the opportunity to see him up close during a meeting.
As soon as he joined college, Tarun Gogoi dived into politics, becoming an active member of JB College Students’ Union. He even kept up with his admiration for Prime Minister Nehru and essayed the latter’s role in a famous mock parliament that was organized at the college in 1956.
Years later in 1966, when Tarun Gogoi joined the Youth Congress, he contested the elections for the membership of the Pradesh Youth Congress. The Congress in Jorhat district was a divided house then led by three leading party leaders. Despite the fact that Tarun Gogoi had no godfather, he won the elections. But the results were later declared null and void by a section who apparently were against Gogoi. The polls were held again and this time, he lost by one vote. A young Tarun Gogoi had tasted both victory and defeat in his very first election.
1971 was the turning point in Tarun Gogoi’s political career. He won his first Lok Sabha polls that year from the Jorhat Lok Sabha Seat. He went on to represent Jorhat from 1971 to 1985 before changing his seat to Kaliabor. The legacy of Tarun Gogoi would forever be etched in the heart and soul of Assam and the Indian National Congress. His tenure as a Chief Minister of Assam from 2001 to 2016 will be remembered for all times to come.
With the demise of the State’s longest-serving Chief Minister, Assam has lost one of its tallest leaders. Gogoi was immensely popular among the public for his straight-forwardness and jovial personality.