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Who Will Make Manik Sarkar PM?

By Sazzad Hussain

25 March, 2013

In the wild run for the post of the chief executive of our country the trials and heats have already been on. Right from the market research groups and survey conductors to the techno-glitz trendsetter analysts there has been a concerted effort to seat Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi at Delhi. The logic is that he is a chief minister who has won three consecutive assembly polls and become a symbol of growth and development as Gujarat has been made the favourite destination for big business. Apart from the party big-wigs to the corporate leaders, celebrities and popular columnist are also endorsing Modi for the post of India’s Prime Minister after the 2014 Lok Sabha Polls. However these techno-savvy, urbane and neo-liberals awfully miss the same logic when it comes to state chief ministers of other political parties. Sheila Dixit, Navin Patnaik, Tarun Gogoi, Nitish Kumar all fall to the same rank of Nraendra Modi of wining successive assembly polls. Latest of them is the Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. Sarkar has won the assembly polls for fourth consecutive term on a camping of good governance and welfare of the people. Does this not make him eligible for the post of premiership on the same logic as attributed to Modi?

The giant billboards, LED big screens or online portals portraying the larger than life image of Narendra Modi is nowhere to be seen in Agartala or anywhere in Tripura if you try to gauge the popularity of its Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. There is no corporate houses in Tripura for Manik Sarkar to pour money for lavish publicity campaigns as we have seen in the case of Modi in last December’s assembly polls. Nor is there glass and chromed super malls and multiplexes, express highways of Gandhinagar, Vadodara or Rajkot representing the vibrant Gujarat of Modi in Tripura to showcase Sarkar’s success. Whatever he has is the people’s goodwill and support across the state comprising all ethnic groups for transforming a state from strife and insurgency and political corruption to a peace and development.

Tripura is a multi-ethnic state with different sub-tribes (upajatis) and East Bengali immigrants. The state witnessed the ethnic insurgency and secessionist militancy, a familiar phenomenon of all North Eastern states, for a long time. Economic development and business was hard as Tripura is a landlocked country with inhospitable terrain making it extremely difficult to connect by road with rest of India. The easiest possible way was to connect Agartala with Kolkata via Bangladesh. Since 1998, the year Manik Sarkar won the first election; there has been steady and upward development in all these sectors making Tripura as one of the most peaceful and developing state of India.

Celebrities often talk about Modi’s personal habits like vegetarianism and celibacy. Bollywood dream girl Hema Malini, a diehard fan of Modi, often showered accolades for him for his liking of Khichidi. However no one talks about Manik Sarkar as he takes Muri (puffed rice) along with party workers in his party’s office on a bench in the verandah. He never takes special food in the Tripura Bhawan when he is on official visits to Kolkata or Delhi and shares the common food along with his staff. Manik Sarkar is probably India’s only chief minister who does not own a home, car or bank balance worth mentioning. He does not even have a mobile phone and has never used the red beacon on his official car and washes his own clothes every morning. His wife, a government employee, commutes to her office by a rickshaw. What Chetan Bhagat would like to say on him? On the other hand Narendra Modi’s wardrobe is filled with dresses designed by Gautam Adani, takes his entire secretariat to Kutch to follow his steps of yoga and other shows. While it is very difficult to find out Manik Sarkar as the chief minister of Tripura when someone visits his party office where he mingles without his personal presence being seen or felt among his fellow workers.

Like other NE states Tripura too have been hit by ethnic militancy and armed secessionist insurgency. However, unlike the terror hit states, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar never has opted for a military offensive. Like his predecessor Nripen Chakraborty, who had opposed extension of Disturbed Areas Act to Tripura and induction of army, Sarkar followed a different strategy of engaging only state police and central para-military forces in effectively dealing the anti-insurgency operations. The State took on the problems in a strategic and resolute manner formulating a multi-dimensional and fine-tuned construct to respond creatively to the situation. The control mechanism was subsumed in counter-insurgency operations intent on swift area-domination and ascendancy, as well as psychological operations and confidence-building measures instead of an exclusive, hawkish, one-dimensional combat in the nature of conflict-management. Sarkar also brought tribal youth in the Special Police Officers for the operations which proved to be valuable in terms of gathering intelligence and keeping a tab on the activities and movements of the insurgents, collaborators and harbourers. The Central and State security forces were forged into a synergetic, coordinated and cohesive mode to derive optimal gains. Their conduct was under close observation of the Governor and the Chief Minister, in order to check personnel from going berserk and being ruthless, trigger-happy, oppressive and violation of human rights. Counter insurgency operations were discreetly suffused with psychological elements, confidence-building measures and healing touches to achieve a sustained end to the conflict. Psychological interventions were focused on correcting the tribal person's negative perception about the state and the mainland, and inducing confidence in and credibility about the State's intentions. Confidence-building exercises and healing touches encompassed special recruitment to the security forces and other government services, especially in the insurgency-bound pockets. An accelerated development thrust, management of the media, civic action programmes of the security forces, and the political process were additional factors. These observations were made by D.N. Sahaya, the ex-Governor of Tripura (2003-2009). Thus Tripura is a model of the most extraordinary success, bringing some of the country’s most virulent and bloody movements to a near complete end in an exemplary, police-led campaign that began to record major successes in 2004, and had brought the State to peace by late 2006. In the contrary, Modi has not taken up any steps to reach out the post-Godhra marginalized Muslim population of Gujarat who has been by-passed by his development mantra.

Manik Sarkar’s electoral ascendancy is also impressive. In 1998 state polls, when he got the mandate for the first time, CPM won 38 (49.43%) seats out of 60 in which its allies the RSP won 2 and the CPI got 1 seat. In 2003 polls the result was absolutely identical with similar wins. In 2008 Manik Sarkar led CPM to win 46 seats in the assembly securing 51.21% of the share. This time in 2013 the CPM increased its tally to 48 seats. Isn’t it sufficient to point this phenomenal electoral success of the Tripura Chief Minister to stake his claim (though he has not made any such claims unlike Modi) for Delhi? Will Chetan Bhagat, Gautam Adani, Amitabh Bachchan will say same words for Manik Sarakr?

(The writer is a freelancer based in Assam , e-mail:sazzad.hussain2@gmail.com)




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