Tripura has a set of perception; The Communist stronghold, with history of higher voter turnout, with own development model and a unique way of people’s governance by Manik Sarkar. One person who has continuously challenged this stereotype and tried to tell the story of misgovernance in Tripura is Sunil Deodhar. A former RSS Pracharak and one of the key strategists for the BJP in the State, he spoke to Organiser on various issues that are shaping the Assembly elections of 2018. Here are the Excerpts:
Tripura has been the stronghold of the CPI (M). This time the BJP is seen to be a major challenger. What are the reasons for this changed scenario?
Alongwith the intense anti-incumbency factor which is visible at all levels across the states, the strong ‘Modi wave’ in Tripura is another major reason behind the surge of BJP in the state. The people of Tripura were always ready to hand over power to any non-CPM party. In that way, they were even ready to vote Congress to power. There were nationalists in the Congress and now they are with us. But the national leadership of Congress showed little interest in Tripura as the CPM extended their support to the UPA government with which both the UPA governments survived. So they never interfered in Tripura and had never initiated any action to curb scams and scandals which ran rampant in the state. So the people were disillusioned with the Congress too. But the rise of Narendra Modi and BJP at the centre has given them a hope.
Prime Minister Narendra Modiji is visiting Tripura on February 8. We are organising two rallies, each in North Tripura and South Tripura. Modiji will be attending one more rally, in Agartala.
Tripura is known for the highest voting percentage. Mobilisation by the party workers is the key. How are you going to do that?
In Tripura, we can say that CPM has never won the election. Booth capturing and rigging are very common in the election process. The officials responsible for ensuring free and fair election are also a part of it. They are either CPM supporters or scared of the goons. Generally, what is being observed is, there would be a normal polling till noon but after that the voting per cent would begin to increase rapidly. By the end of the day, the turnout would be 94-95 per cent! When we checked the voters’ list, we were shocked to see that same names and addresses recurring after a few pages. This is the secret behind the highest voting percent in the state.
We are countering that with our tested strategy of organisation building, appointing ‘Panna Pramukh’. People are with us. The BJP has become a rallying point against the misgovernance of CPM.
That is fine but the leadership of Manik Sarkar is still believed to be effective, simple and spotless. How are you going to deal with it?
It is nothing but an illusion created by media throughout the country without visiting Tripura or without talking to the people of Tripura. I appeal to the public, wherever you are in this country, go to the local restaurants and ask if anybody from Tripura working over there; talk to him and ask him about Manik Sarkar and his government, he will give you the real picture. If a Chief Minister has got a very less amount as bank balance, why people should believe he is a man of simplicity. Rather it creates doubts among people that why a Chief Minister, who has been ruling the state for two and a half decades, is desperate to show such a minimum amount as his bank balance. Is it just to show the people that ‘I am a poor person’? Whatever the story is floating around outside the state, the people of Tripura do not buy this propaganda.
The issues of corruption, crime against women and politics of violence we raised in the election campaign are connecting with the people for the same reason. For instance, the status of women under Communist-rule is the worst. The women belong to the Opposition are subject to rape and violence. You cannot see this anywhere else. In Tripura, the reason given for rape is that she does not belong to CPM. Now women are asking for justice.
The politics of violence is also a talking point.
Whether it is in Tripura or Kerala or China or USSR or Cuba, Communists are the same. For those who support the party, they would be safe. If you are not a communist, the state will oppress you and even deny your right to life. They don’t have substance in their ideology. It cannot give happiness or security to the people. When it fails in execution, they will resort on criminal politics to survive in power. They will annihilate the opposition.
In the last one year, more than 10 BJP workers, booth or assembly level workers, were murdered by CPM goons and more than 250 karyakartas were severely injured in attacks. More than 500 BJP workers were admitted to hospitals after CPM attacks. More than 2000 houses, shops or vehicles belonging to BJP workers were either vandalised or burned.
Wherever Communist Party came to power, be it in Kerala or West Bengal or Tripura, they politicise the government administration and crimilise the politics for their own purpose. If you become a part of CPM, only then you can get something. If you don’t join CPM, forget about the chances of getting anything, but you will lose whatever you have, your life, family, children, properties, house etc. If you are a government employee, only those who support the party can work wherever they want. Others will be transferred to remote areas, far away from Agartala as there is no defined transfer policy.
BJP has raised the MGNREGA as a major issue in the election campaign.
Tripura is a poor state and so is the state of employment and education. The CPM does not want the people to stand on their feet and make them independent, because if they earn their livelihood, they will not be dependent on the ‘party’. That is the reason why they never want to introduce any kind of skill development programme in the state and as a result, the MGNREGA, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, is the only option. The total area of the state of Tripura is 10500 sq. kms. According to the statistics of the Tripura Government, they have dug ponds that cover the area of more than 16500 sq. kms. If so, the entire Tripura would have sunk in the ponds dug by the CPM Government. When they were asked to geo-tag the areas where the work is done, they could tag only 7 per cent of their actual claim. A clear case of massive corruption and the misuse of Central schemes to support the party cadre.
But the State Government always makes allegations about discrimination against the Union Government?
They are alleging that the Union Government is not giving money. You know, the annual budget of Tripura is 16000 cores rupees, out of which the revenue of the state government is just 1000 crores. The rest of the amount, around 15000 crore rupees is contributed by the Narendra Modi government. The CPM leadership is a bunch of liars. They are spreading canards. They project every single scheme of Narendra Modi, including Ujjwala Yojana, Pradhan Mantri Awas Yogana, as the achievements of the CPM and Manik Sarkar. The people know what the truth is.