Amidst the campaigning and election fervor in Assam, enjoyed talking to Republic TV in an interview on March 20, 2021.
Excerpts from the interview
How do you start your day, especially during elections?
I like to start my day with exercise. I believe it helps me stay fit and keeps me fresh. I travel with a yoga mat and a kettlebell. So, wherever I am, I alternate between yoga and weight training.
What do you have for breakfast?
I like to eat a light breakfast- a banana, boiled egg or roti-sabzi if we are travelling. Lunch is usually a heavy meal, en route, while travelling. Followed by a light meal for dinner.
You spend your day meeting people, what are the issues they talk about?
They talk about struggle- economic conditions are difficult; prices are rising for all commodities. However, it is amazing to see that despite the struggle, everybody remains positive. We are hopeful for better days.
We are all trying to make the best of what we have, whether it’s a shopkeeper or me, as a representative of people in the Parliament. The current situation is not great, but all our heads are held high and we continue to live a life of dignity working towards a better future.
What do you prefer for lunch?
I am a foodie and an Assamese. So, if you give me rice, dal, fish and plain vegetables, I am more than happy. As a kid, I was happy with rice, dal and aloo pitika (boiled mashed potato with mustard oil). We are a family of foodies- my father, mother, sister, all of us. Food is an extremely important part of our lives.
How would you describe your journey from the corporate sector to politics?
I was always concerned about the development, public service. I was always interested in economics and politics, in young people, rural areas. The world around me has changed and the incentive has changed. When I was in the corporate sector the incentive was profit and in the non-profit sector the incentive was government policies. Now, in politics the world is much larger, you have to think about about industry, farmers, laws, culture. The canvas and the number of subjects which one needs to grasp in order to have a proper roadmap is much larger.
What role did your father, former CM of Assam Tarun Gogoi play in your political career?
I joined politics after my masters and when you are young you tend to get overconfident with the knowledge and experience. I was very overconfident about my ideas about the development of Assam. I am inspired by my father’s work. We used to have constructive debates with each other and I would clash with him on his views regarding development. But even now, after about five years of quitting his chief ministership, I still find his ideas much more relevant than my ideas and I have begun to appreciate his ideas. I have my master’s degree, but his years of experience and spending time with common people- having genuine human connection and conversation with people did teach him what Assam is and the kind of development it needs, the type of politics that can keep Assam united. He mentored me then and even now my memories of him continue to guide my work.
Where do you derive your energy from, especially in addressing rallies throughout the day?
From the people. Anyone who likes working with people gets their energy from being around people. It is, in fact, a collective effort, I try to give energy to people while deriving energy from them, creating positive energy as a society. We talk about positive changes, hope, solutions, ‘what we can do’ which creates optimism. This optimism drives all of us giving us energy.
Are you passionate about sports like your father?
I love to play all forms of sports. During the Jatre, I always stop by a volleyball net, a badminton net, or a football, cricket game. I personally like playing cricket and tennis. I am also passionate about long distance running. I have run several half-marathons in the past. I appreciate how sports teach us hard work, team work and dealing with victory and loss.
What is your vision for the state of Assam?
Assam is a part of the North-east where our Ecology is very unique, pristine and not as urbanised as the rest of India. My vision for the Assam is to preserve the ecology, culture and at the same time also ensure modernisation in terms of infrastructure, opportunities for youth. I have great hopes for Assam
What is your weakness?
I am still quite young, I have a lot of learn and a lot of achieve. I need to put in a lot more work, gain more experience. I learn the best by listening, so, I need to listen more.
What is your strength?
The ability to listen. I am quite patient and genuinely listen to people. I love travelling, meeting people, each with their own unique story and experiences. For instance- a businessman talking about launching his business, a doctor talking about the latest innovation in medicine or a sportsperson discussing how they prepare. I listen a lot and I am able to integrate these conversations and lessons in my work.
How would you transform Assam and India?
Our economic model has to change, especially because of climate change, we have to come up with a new economic model that preserves and protects the ecology and environment. It is not a question about environment vs development. A new model that protects the environment, creates jobs and does not displace people from villages. At the same time, everybody is included irrespective of caste, community, gender, race or any other form of orientation. Where everybody feels the country belongs to them and feels safe to wear what they want, believe want they want, say what they want and are safe under the rights guaranteed to them by the Indian constitution.