The deeper symbolism
Bogibeel bridge represents the nation’s earnest reconnect with the northeast, gradually redirecting its presence from the periphery to the Centre
On December 25, some motor-mouths on social media were cheekily wondering where good governance day and its commemoration had disappeared. These unthinking elements with a short attention span failed to comprehend that the completion and the inauguration of Bogibeel Bridge on Good Governance Day was in itself the most evident and enduring symbol of good governance. That a crucial national interest project which was long promised, which was conferred the status of a national project over a decade ago and yet remained long neglected, long ignored and overlooked could be brought back to life and completed with precision and commitment was a clear expression of the results of good governance.
In fact, projects such as Bogibeel are the result of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's PRAGATI initiative, in which, without a break over the last four years, he has dug out the trajectories and status of old projects, has analysed the reason for their stagnation, has evaluated their imperativeness against the overall backdrop of national interest and has ensured that these are then pursued relentlessly until completion.
Bogibeel, thus, can be a useful and comprehensive case of study of the effects of the PRAGATI initiative on the ground. Isn't the entire approach a redrawing of what has been understood or dished out in terms of governance? For over seven decades we have been conditioned to see and quantify governance in terms of the foundation stones laid and projects inaugurated and the usual complaints that followed were that projects were never completed. Modi's PRAGATI initiative has, in a sense, reversed that trend; it is another step towards altering our collective mindset in terms of how we understand a delivery-oriented governance structure. Bogibeel symbolises a governance approach that is based on accountability and responsiveness within a time-frame. It negates and rejects the politics of promises and assurances that have no supporting will of implementation and execution. Those wondering where good governance had disappeared this 25th of December have actually not developed the capacity to examine, in all seriousness, the symbolism and reality of such achievements.
Instead of singing paeans to good governance, instead of laying foundation stones for a slew of projects that would eventually end up being abandoned as has been the habit of the Congress party over the years, Modi resolved to complete the strategic Bogibeel initiative and dedicated it to the nation on good governance. He invoked former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's vision for the region. It was during Vajpayee's tenure that India's northeast began to be mainstreamed in terms of governance.
At a deeper level, Bogibeel represents and symbolises how India's northeast, under Modi's vision of Act-East, is being gradually redirected from the periphery to the Centre. Symbolically, Bogibeel has permanently bridged the trust deficit, the attention deficit, the governance-deficit that India's northeast has been subject to all these years when Congress dispensations ruled both in the states and at the Centre.
Bogibeel has ensured that India's northeast is better connected with every party within its periphery and with the rest of India. It will have a huge impact, both in terms of strategic and psychological dimension. So crucial are the strategic impacts of this achievement that no dispassionate observer can desist from rejoicing that the project has been finally completed.
The habit of distancing northeast, the strange argument that infrastructural development in the region must be neglected and relegated so that any incursion into India can be slowed down due to lack of roads and connectivity have finally been consigned to the dustbins of history. In fact, with the formation of the DONER ministry, for the first time since independence, Vajpayee had indicated a fresh approach to our outreach to the North-eastern region and in the last four years, with his emphasis on Act-East, Modi has revived that focus on the region. His outreach initiatives have been dynamic and multi-dimensional with transformation as its goal – transforming the potentials of the northeast into an engine for its growth and for that of the wider region beyond. Bogibeel is a crucial milestone in Modi's saga of reconnecting our northeast with our larger national self.
But for those who have a problem with Modi inaugurating the Bogibeel, like Congress president Rahul Gandhi — he has a problem because the completion of Bogibeel bridge is a stark reminder of the inadequacy and failure of the Congress's governance and reminds us of how it has only exploited the people and region of the northeast for its own political benefit — the question that they need to ask themselves is how is it that a project like Bogibeel languished under their watch? How is that Assam which had a prime minister representing it for a decade could not complete the bridge, how is that having its government at the Centre and at the state for over a decade, Congress could not complete the bridge, how is it that having its governments in almost all states of the northeast for decades it could still not keep its promise of Bogibeel and numerous other infrastructural projects which were crucial to the Northeast's prosperity and to our larger national security? Dr Manmohan Singh should, instead of trying to tell us how much they spoke to the press, come out with a report card of what his decade-old government at the Centre actually did for the northeast. Similarly, Congress leaders like Tarun Gogoi must also explain to us what is it that made them incapable of completing a project like Bogibeel. Rather than having a problem with Modi "strutting" on the bridge, can the Congress first family and its leader demand accountability from itself and introspect on how it has badly reneged on its commitment to the people of Northeast?
By abandoning the people of Assam and the northeast in 1962 to invading PLA hordes, Nehru had disconnected a deeper chord and had psychologically pushed the region to the periphery. 56 years after that helpless act of retreat, Modi has finally reconnected the chord and has re-ignited that bond through Bogibeel.
It is a deeper symbolism that cannot be missed.
(The author is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi. The views expressed are strictly personal)