Gopinath Bardoloi is well known for his efficient work towards the development of Assam. He believed in Gandhian principles and actively practiced non-violence. Before India became independent, he was the Prime Minister of Assam. Post-independence, he was the first chief minister of the Assam state. His love for the people of Assam and his tireless work for their betterment earned him the nickname – Lokpriya.
Birth and education
Gopinath Bardoloi was born at Raha (Assam) on June 6, 1890. His father was called Buddheswar Bardoloi while his mother’s name was Praneswari Bardoloi, whom he lost at the tender age of 12. In 1910, he married Surabala Devi.
He went to Cotton College and later on pursued graduation from Scottish Church College. He also earned a post-graduation degree in 1914 from the Calcutta University. As he grew up, his thoughts began to be influenced by the leaders working tirelessly for India’s independence like Tarun Ram Phukan. In fact, on Phukan’s insistence, he started working as a teacher in Sonoram High School, Guwahati.
Life as a freedom fighter and social worker
Gopinath Bardoloi’s political career began when Indian independence movement was intensely going on. In 1922, he volunteered to join the Indian National Congress and played a very active role in it. As he took the message of non-cooperation movement to the masses, the British Government targeted him. Consequently, he was arrested in 1922 and was jailed for a year. During the time when Non-Cooperation Movement had been called off, he took the membership of Municipal Board and Local Board of Guwahati and diverted his attention towards social work.
Making Congress popular
In the aftermath of the Government of India Act, in 1936, Congress took part in the Regional Assembly elections. Though they won sufficient seats to form the government, they chose to become the opposition party. This freedom fighter was then, elected to act as the leader of the opposition. On 26th September, 1936, he was invited to form the government because the Congress party had gained the trust of people. He attained the position of Prime Minister of Assam (undivided).
Gopinath Bardoloi’s charisma, leadership qualities and extreme honesty won him the support of diverse communities. He scrapped the land tax and prevented allocation of land to the migrant Muslim population so that the rights of the native population could be protected.
His cabinet resigned in 1940 in response to the call made by Mahatma Gandhi. In 1942, the British government banned the Congress party and all the leaders were imprisoned. In the meantime, a new government was formed by Md. Sadaulla that fuelled communal discord. When this freedom fighter came out of prison, he protested against the newly-formed government forcing Md. Sadaulla to start a discussion. As per the agreement, all political prisoners were freed, ban on political meetings was lifted and certain other important changes were made. In 1946, when Congress won the elections, Gopinath Bardoloi became the Prime Minister.
His vehement efforts and foresightedness helped make Assam an integral part of India which otherwise would have become a part of East Pakistan.
He expired on 5th August, 1950 and was conferred the Bharat Ratna, posthumously.