Manik Sarkar is India’s one and only honest and simple politician, who was born into a middle-class family! He is an Indian Communist Politician. His father, Amulya Sarkar, worked as a tailor, while his mother, Anjali Sarkar, was a State and later Provincial government employee. Sarkar became active in student movements in his student days, and in 1968, at the age of 19, he became a member of one of the major political parties of India, the Marxist Communist Party. He was a candidate of the Students’ Federation of India throughout his academic life at MBB College, from where he graduated with a B. Com. degree. During his first year at the college, there came the turbulent times of the food movement of 1967, campaigning against the policy of the then Congress government of Tripura, and Sarkar threw himself headlong into the related student struggle. His vigorous role in this mass movement led him to join the Communists. Due to his early political exposure, he also became the General Secretary of the MBB College Student Union and was also made the Vice President of the Students’ Federation of India. In 1972, at the early age of 23, he joined the State Committee of the Communist (Marxist) Party.
Sarkar and his wife live a very simple life. Sarkar is the only Indian Chief Minister who does not own a personal car or a home. He chooses to live in an old and a very small house that belonged to his great grandfather. He used to donate his entire salary that he received as a Chief Minister to his party and in return, got Rs 10,000 per month as allowance. Sarkar gave away his entire salary to the party, lived on Rs 2,000 plus per month given by the party, with a tiffin of puffed rice, apparently his favourite, had a bank balance of less than Rs 2,000, just a fraction of a little land on the outskirts of capital Agartala shared with his sister, no car, no property, no email account, not even a mobile. He was certainly a stoic, classical communist, and Tripura seemed proud of him, even while the party bosses in Delhi, Kerala and Kolkata, never really thought it important to showcase him in the national stage.
His wife, Panchali Bhattacharya, a retired government official, travelled on rickshaw and public transport, and was as stoic and a classical communist as her husband. He also blocked hate politics, which seemed to have stalked other parts of the country, especially the Hindi heartland, since the arrival of the BJP’s majority regime in Delhi in 2014. Literacy and unemployment, though, went hand-in-hand, due to lack of infrastructure, investment and industry; but, Sarkar would nonchalantly respond that this has been a national phenomenon since the new regime in Delhi has failed in all its promises, and a direct fallout of demonetisation as well.
However, to come face to face with the bitter realism of the contemporary scenario, the BJP has risen for the following complex electoral and social factors: Ruling for 25 years with impeccable honesty is just not enough for the modern electorate, especially the aspiring educated classes, high on the flip-side of globalisation and liberalisation, and low on history, philosophy or social sciences.
Meanwhile, CPM has lost ground all over India except Kerala. CPM could not make the centre to adequately develop Tripura. CPM might be under wrong impression that their clean and honest CM is enough to retain power. On the other hand, Congress while in power wanted the Tripura people to reject CPM for want of development and accept Congress. It did not happen either way. The people found CPM and Congress sinking fast. They saw hopes of development and mostly the flooded money was much more lucrative than honest Sarkar; finally people voted for BJP to power. Manik Sarkar is not directly responsible for this defeat. CPM and Congress are responsible for neglecting Tripura for political reasons.
Well technically speaking people of Tripura didn’t outrightly reject Manik Sarkar but the vote percentage of BJP was just a bit more than that of Communist Party. As we can see that Communist Party vote share has decreased by just 3.4 per cent in spite of the Modi wave whereas on the other hand we see Congress vote percentage decreasing by a huge margin of about 35 per cent and there is an increase in vote percentage of BJP by about 39 per cent. If we are to count the votes of BJP and Communist Party then BJP got around 999093 votes and Communist Party got around 992575 votes. So, the difference is just about 6518 votes. But the thing, which we have to notice here, is the decrease in Congress vote percentage. Congress is sinking bit by bit in every state. They tried to regain their lost sheen during Gujarat elections but later on Rahul Gandhi just surrendered to his fate and left country for long holiday. He would have been firmer on his goals and made efforts to revive the party.
Another factor that damaged Manik Sarkar was rampant unemployment because CPM’s model of governance is different, for example if you purchased an auto, you need a permit from CPM office to operate, for that you need to join CPM and work for the party. Government jobs are offered to the Communist Marxist Party (CMP) party workers only. This is just one example.
On the other hand, due to alliance of BJP with IPFT, BJP had an upper hand over CPM in the tribal areas which comprises 32 per cent vote. Therefore, in the tribal-dominated areas like Dhalai and Gomati district, CPM could not win a single seat there. CPM indeed underestimated BJP. CPM never expected the cross voting. Many supporters of CPM voted silently to BJP holding the flags of CPM due to fear psychosis created by the outfit. The result, BJP won 2/3 rd seats in the election.
Another factor was that, Manik Sarkar became the CM of Tripura in 1998 and he has won four consecutive elections. He has completed 20 years in power. Such a long rule by one party and one CM certainly creates anti-incumbency. People want change in such a situation. It is true that Sarkar was an honest person. However, the same can’t be said about his government. The corruption under his government did not reduce. People are interested in the honesty of the government rather than the honesty of the CM or PM. Dr. Manmohan Singh was perhaps the most honest PM of India, but his government was perhaps one of the most corrupt. His inability to check corruption within the government had also lead to his fall. Elections are like modern warfare. The one with better resources often wins the elections. Manik Sarkar is honest and his party’s resources could not match the resources of BJP. Amit Shah is a master strategist who fights the elections with full might and uses all the tricks of the trade. BJP has also been preparing the ground for a couple of years and they reaped the dividend for their superior campaign management.
Moreover, for some or the other reason, the communist ideology went on decline all over the world. There was a time in 1990s, when the communist leader Jyoti Basu was even considered for the post of Prime Minister of India. However, after two decades, communists are virtually wiped out from all over India except in Kerala. Rightist parties are on the rise and people prefer prosperity and development to equality and poverty. Communist parties in India have to reinvent themselves, if they want to survive in future.
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