Manik Sarkar, Tripura Chief Minister, does not own a house or a car. His bank balance is Rs. 10,000. As Chief Minister, he is expected to carry a mobile phone but he refuses to do so saying the cell will give him a “lavish flavour.”
At a personal level, Manik Sarkar may be a throwback to another era — of scrupulousness and honesty in public life. But that quality is not entirely novel in Tripura where one of his predecessors, Nripen Chakraborty, was well known for his probity.
Coming from a Congress family, this CPI(M) stalwart recalls attending a public meeting by Jawaharlal Nehru. But in his student days, Mr. Sarkar was more impressed by communism than by the Congress brand of socialism.
A member of the party’s politburo, Manik Sarkar has led the Left Dront to three successive election wins — from 1998. His biggest achievement may well be curbing the State’s extremist problem that used to cripple its economy and development. He has personally visited all corners of the State to oversee development activities and taken note of problems faced by the local population.
The captain of the CPI(M) team has made no changes to his daily routine despite the vigorous campaign. Every morning he does some physical exercise, washes his clothes and does other household work.
Before this assembly election the CPI(M) invited many prominent leaders to campaign for left nominees, but he was in the driving seat of the campaign. He did so despite being a contestant from Dhanpur constituency from where he won three times in a row.
In an interview, an optimistic Manik Sarkar believes it’s only a matter of time before the Left Dront records another “massive victory” in Tripura.
In its manifesto, the Congress has promised jobs, allowance to unemployed youths, implementation of pay commission recommendations and free ration to the poorest section of people. What do you think?
All Congress governments since 1952 have been voicing a sea of assurances, but hardly anything has been implemented. The nation is now burdened with 20 crore unemployed youths. People understand the reality and will not fall prey to false promises.
More than 40 per cent of electors vote for Congress despite the fact that CPI(M) has swept several elections in Tripura. Do you think that is a failure on part of your party organisation?
I don’t think there was any failure on our part. Some people could be dissatisfied with us. We cannot do much. I have no power, everything lies with Delhi.
CPI(M) has made the extremist problem an issue this election.
Even Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh branded terrorism as a serious threat to nation. Here his party has tied up with INPT, which is a mask of extremists, for the sake of vote. Congress always shakes hand with subversive groups. But people will reject this tactical alliance and bring back Left Front in power.
There is a sense of resentment among government employees over their pay structure. What is your take?
We have made things better for the employees. By and large they are happy though some are confused.
Trinamool Congress has abstained from contesting in Tripura. How do you see that?
This could be a tactical decision by the party. Its leaders knew that if their party contests all its candidates would lose deposit.
How is it that you have been Chief Minister for three terms?
I don’t see anything as personal. We have done everything collectively, so credit goes to all. We were successful in restoring peace in the state with enormous support from people at large. We have achieved integration of people from all sections. Hindu, Muslim, Christian and Buddhists are all living like brothers. This is something unique in light of the situation in the country.