In its much ambitious move to unseat the Communists from Tripura, the BJP poll strategists and campaigners have decided to target the Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.
For long the CPI-M has been trying to make towering claims about Mr Sarkar’s probity and clean image. But the BJP has decided not to give any edge to their bitter detractors any longer.
The Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in his campaign rally at Barjala playground sought to puncture the Marxists’ claim that they have a clean Chief Minister in Manik Sarkar and went onto draw a parallel between Mr Sarkar and Dr Manmohan Singh.
“I don”t want to make personal attack on Manmohan Singh but, people used to say ‘He is Mr Clean. But even then there came allegations of corruption of several crores of rupees,” Rajnath Singh said. He said, Never in the past a Central Minister was jailed but under Congress-led UPA a Union Minister was jailed for corruption. This was in reference to now infamous 2G scam and the fact that former Telecom Minister A Raja was jailed.
“All these corruption cases were happening under his knowledge. But Manmohan Singh had kept silent…..I want to tell the Chief Minister here (reference to Tripura CM Mr Sarkar) that if you are Mr Clean then why did audit report refer to alleged corruption cases? Why are these there?,” the Union Home Minister said campaigning for the BJP nominee Dilip Das in presence of the BJP state unit chief Biplab Deb and the BJP in-charge of Tripura, Sunil Deodhar.
“If a person closes his eyes when corruption happens under him, such a person cannot be called honest,” the Home Minister said point blank making a direct assault on Manik Sarkar, who is hailed for his integrity.
Not long ago, Manik Sarkar was given a tag line of being “the poorest Chief Minister in India” and according to his affidavit filed for 2013 polls, Sarkar’s personal property, movable and immovable, was valued at less than Rs 2.5 lakh and that he had only a paltry sum of Rs 1,080 cash in hand.
But the BJP—in the run to the polls that could be described as watershed, the Chief Minister’s detractors have changed that all.
Biplab Kumar Deb, the local charishmatic BJP state unit president, makes blistering attack against him. “Even after being the Chief Minister for four terms, Mr Sarkar has failed to be a Chief Minister of the entire 37 lakh population in the State. He has been a Chief Minister only for his cadres,” Deb alleges.
Speaking in similar vein, Bishwabandhu Sen, a former Congress legislator and now the BJP candidate from prestigious commercial town of Dharmanagar, says, “Manik Sarkar has failed on twin fronts of law and order and a clean administration. His ministers have been involved in corruption cases. On several occasions, he protected them”. Mr Sen further says, “Instead of backing his cabinet colleague Badal Choudhury when the latter wanted to fight corruption, Chief Minister had replaced him as the Finance Minister”.
“I feel Mr Sarkar has been the master mind of several wrong doings in the state including in relation to corruption cases,” says Sen.
In fact, in rural areas including Mohinipur village near Manu town, a section of women voters blames the Chief Minister for allowing “lot of lawlessness and corruption”.
“If the BJP comes to power, things might change,” one of them hoped.
However, the CPI (M) claims they have given a good administration and thus several leaders and the Chief Minister himself try to make a good case of seeking votes for yet another term for the Left regime.
One such leader said, however, point blank: “Today in Tripura our opponent is the BJP”.
Sitting cross legged, 30-year-old CPI(M) cadre Bisho Nath raises his hand each time, his fellow comrade says ‘Manik Sarkar Zindabad’.
The coffee coloured dry mud is all across his feet. The slogan is much popular among the Left cadres here and this time they know it better that they getting ready for a real competition. “The Congress was a manageable opponent. The BJP is a serious competitor as they too have dedicated workers,” says Nath.
The principal rival for the State’s ruling party now is the BJP—with the Congress party having been replaced. The cadres have also prepared themselves accordingly. A small booklet, many cadres carry, has sketches and brief write-ups attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP.
However, the pamphlets do not highlight many pressing issues concerning Tripura and more about matters concerning people’s woes in Dhalai district or in adjoining areas of Kumarghat and Dharmanagar region.
But nevertheless the comrades do not complain. “The communist workers in Tripura have developed a reputation for discipline but they actually are docile and also submit in obedience to the authority,” says the BJP general secretary in the local unit in Dharmanagar Amit Dutta.
“What to do, this is our party line!” is the refrain among several cadres gathered at Manu Bazar for a rally by the Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.
The change seems to be imminent. Therefore at Rajnath Singh’s roadshow in Agartala—the BJP slogan ‘Chalo Paltai (Come, Let us Change)’ is more than a slogan.
Several enthusiastic supporters say time is ripe for ‘real change’. One woman neo-admirer of Narendra Modi, informed this magazine, “I am supporting the BJP this time. My husband is a CPI-M cadre. But this time, he has assured to cooperate with me”.
Writing seems to be getting clearer by the day.
Rajnath Singh urged voters of Tripura to give “one chance” to the BJP and pointed out that they have seen CPI-M for last 25 years and thus the saffron and the nationalist party deserve an opportunity.
He also told the voters that like in Tripura, the Communist regime has harmed West Bengal in its 36 years of rule and in this he went onto make a veiled attack on Mamata Banerjee-led regime as well saying—“Now for some time Trinamool regime is there, but I need not tell you how bad the situation is there!”
Ridiculing the politics of the Left, Rajnath Singh showed his expertise in striking emotional chord with the voters and said, “Just playing lip service to the poor cannot help improve their conditions”.
In this context, the Home Minister claimed the Modi Government in the Centre has been taking number of pro-poor measures and mentioned the Bugdet 2018-19 which has a unique health insurance scheme for the poor.