"...We both saw both sides of the story," Himanta Biswa Sarma said of Tarun Gogoi
Ahead of the last rites of three-time Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, his one-time colleague who later rebelled against him, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said Mr Gogoi was a "great team leader" who promoted young people with a "clear vision".
"He used to delegate work with young people. He nurtured a generation of young leaders like me. He gave us immense responsibility and had huge confidence on us. He was a very good team leader with a clear vision to mentor and promote young leadership. One should learn from his life how to work as a team," Mr Sarma told NDTV.
Tarun Gogoi, who died at 86, will be laid to rest at Nabagraha crematorium in Guwahati on Thursday with full state honours. Mr Sarma is in charge of making all the arrangements on behalf of the Assam government.
Mr Sarma, the BJP's strategist for the north-east, made an entry into the Congress through another political stalwart from Assam, Hiteshwar Saikia, another former chief minister.
Ahead of the 2001 assembly election, when Tarun Gogoi returned to state politics after a long stint in Delhi, he took Mr Sarma under his fold. Mr Sarma was made a minister for the first time by Tarun Gogoi.
"He would instil confidence among young leaders. He used to assign us jobs individually and then motivate us to compete among ourselves as to who would do the assigned job better. But he also simultaneous taught how to do a healthy competition," Mr Sarma said.
"When we completed the task given to us, he congratulated us. Today if you see young generation of leaders in Assam, this was only possible because of his trust and confidence on young leaders," Mr Sarma added.
On his change from Tarun Gogoi's trusted lieutenant to his challenger during Tarun Gogoi's last term, Mr Sarma said "his personal equation" with Tarun Gogoi after his rebellion should not be seen as an issue since it can never undermine Tarun Gogoi's contribution.
"My memory with him is that we both saw both sides of the story. Till 2011, it was different, post-2011 it was a different story. I have worked with him closely since 1997 to 2011 and after that we fought each other on political fronts, so when you are to recall my memory, there are memories very sweet and also probably memories that no one should talk about. But the way he took charge of Assam in 2001, got Assam out of financial mess, he ended the era of secret killings, the way he faced the serial bomb blasts in Assam, how he handled ethnic conflicts, I think he presided over the state in a very challenging period. History will remember him for this," Mr Sarma said.
After the Congress sided with Tarun Gogoi and disapproved the rebellion by a section of Congress MLAs led by Mr Sarma for a leadership change in the state, Mr Sarma joined the BJP in 2015 and steered the party to a historic victory along with the incumbent Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in 2016.