By Ananya S Guha
Even as the Chief Ministers in three North East states were sworn in very little attention seemed to be paid to Tripura, where a party has got absolute majority single handedly and is being elected to power, five times in a row, with the present incumbent winning three times in a row! Also apart from the fact that Manik Sarkar is no political pushover, the media is underplaying his honesty and integrity. The man has a personal bank balance of a few thousand rupees, has given the house that he has inherited to his younger sister. He is childless, and his wife was employed in a government office and afer retirement her saving shows an amount just over 20 lakhs. Compare this with Chief Ministers who have assets worth a few crores and you will discover that all is not lost in Indian politics and polity. That Manik Sarkar donates almost everything he gets by way of salary to his party does not seem to impress our media. However, it was only one magazine from Guwahati which early this year highlighted him as among the twenty most influential men in the region and in a state known for its backwardness socially, economically and geographically. Moreover, the Chief Minister like his party has always been empathetic towards the tribal population which are in a minority and which understanably is disgruntled, taking into account that it constitutes the indigenous peoples. Yet the leftists in Tripura including people like Nripen Chakraborty and Dasrath Deb have been also instrumental in bringing semblance of peace and development. But the roads to development took place mainly in Manik Sarkar`s rule where connectivity of roads as well as the IT sector received great impetus. He was also responsible for brining the concept of public private partnership and encouraged private intervention especially in the IT sector. Even his worst adversaries admit that Manik Sarkar is an impeccably honest man, certainly a rare breed among politicians today. That the Marxists have lost resoundingly in West Bengal and Kerala but have won with aplomb in Tripura is a certainty that a lot has depended on the virtues of leadership. True they were always known to be close to the tribal population as they understood them better than the other political parties, but it is also to Sarkar`s political genius and accumen that he has been able to transform a party into a people`s party. Other political parties in the country should get the clear message of how honesty and political intelligence can work wonders on the people of this tiny state in North East India.
While the swearing in ceremonies of two Chief Ministers in North East India is singled out with prominence it is not the case with Tripura. Yet the media makes it known that he is the ‘poorest’ Chief Minister in the country whose interests are people focussed and he has nothing to look forward to in terms of personal gain. In such a situation his example is not only exceptional but it is a silent story of working for the poor, the landless and the deprived. Moreover, Manik Sarkar’s attempt at providing employment to the tribals has also resulted in his popularity. The Marxists in Tripura have always shown concern for tribals and the indigenous peoples. They have also shown interest in the literature and culture of the state varied as it is with tribals, the tea garden communities, the Chakmas, the Meiteis etc. I have personally attended a number of literary and cultural meets in Agartala and on several occassions found the Minister for Arts and Culture sit through the entire proceedings of a day! If such people are not cultural ambassadors and aficionados, then who are? This rich cultural assortment has always been highlighed by them and if Tripura is on the way to peace and development, it is only due to them.
The example of the Chief Minister of Tripura Mr Manik Sarkar, for his honesty, uprightness and genuine concern for the people of the state especially the poor, the tribal population which is disenchanted, many of them on the path of militancy should be highlighted to show that all Indian politicians have not transgressed the promontories of probity and incorruptibility. That the CPM Party Chief Prakash Karat said this on the sidelines of the swearing in ceremony of the Chief Minister should be taken note of by all and sundry, especially the media, the media, whether we like it or not, can actually make or break.
That militancy in Tripura has been controlled to a great extent is to prove the party`s transparency in dealing with indigeneous peoples, their problems and apprehensions. By having job reservations in every government post for them is not simply to echo national policies, but also to genuinely uplift them. Yet many of these posts are not being filled up, which shows that they are in backwaters, which have drawn them to militancy, with the `majority` population remaining by and large insensitive to their problems. Education must now be a priority. I am not condoning violence of the extremists, but the very fact that the people have been reduced to a minority, in their own land is a testimony to their misgivings. But the common man in the state by and large wants harmony and peace.
The Manik Sarkar government has understood such travails with empathy- always. Hence it has won once again with resounding clarity. The personal saga of the Chief Minister is all well known, with the media pointing out his bank balance, and his total commitment to the welfare of the state, and his ethical altruism, which is unique in the Indian polity. So let this be a prime example of sorts. Which Chief Minister would work zealously, without an iota of a show of ostentation? This is ethics grounded in commitment and goodness, working for the people, and with them!
The Chief Minister`s wife travelling in a rickshaw is a common sight on the streets of Agartala. Hear hear!
Principled politics is a dying art today in our country, but not so with Manik Sarkar in Tripura. If the forces of goodness and probity are unleashed in politics, which is anathema to many, then there is trust. And once there is trust, there is faith. The cybernetics of goodwill and faith then come into a larger picture of incorruptibilty. Political analysts could do well to study such redemption in this state, intractable in a corner of North East India and generally considered backward and militant infested.