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Tripura precariously placed for leftists in 16th Loksabha
Biswendu Bhattacharjee Senior Journalist
Tripura precariously placed for leftists in 16th Loksabha
PHOTO : CPIM last baston Tripura's Chief Minister Manik Sarkar addressing a rally. TIWN File photo

Tiny Tripura again emerged as the cynosure of the Left’s focus at a time when CPI-M is reduced to minority in Indian politics after 2014 general election. The state retained it’s two- decade old electoral tradition and appeared as a screensaver for the dwindling communism in the country.

Manik Sarkar, the fourth term Chief Minister of Tripura has become the hero of the Leftists now. His dynamic leadership undoubtedly contributed towards maintaining the strong hold even in the urban areas which saved the face of Prakash Karat  and encouraged him to come before and face the media on May 16.

When leftists lost vote share substantially in West Bengal, in 2014 general election, Communists of Tripura registered an exponential growth in vote bank. Both the CPI-M nominees won the election with an ever highest margin in electoral history of the state.

Sarkar’s development plan and management of administration not only made a large section of the society happy but also reduced the opposition to minority. If India considers the victory of BJP in 2014 due to Modi wave; it will not at all be wrong to say that faction riddled opposition was further decimated because of Manik Sarkar’s plan of action over the years.

New York Times described, “Manik Sarkar is one of India’s last Communists with political power, and he is a fine specimen of this disappearing species”. The article also predicted: Sarkar’s isolation will probably become even more acute after the counting of 2014 general election’s vote. 

It forecasted for the first time that the Communists are likely to win fewer than 16 seats in the national Parliament, possibly as few as 10. That would be a disastrous showing in a body of 543 elected seats that many analysts predict their eventual extinction in a land which has been such a fertile ground for proliferation of Marx, Lenin and Stalin that these were once the popular first names of people.

Sarkar’s political articulation and public appearance of last 10 years portray him more than what he is. Besides, his exposure in national politics and interaction with national media influenced average informed Indians to believe him different from the others.

Even in the CPI-M party and in the cabinet, he is regarded differently.

In administration he is considered as, Sensible, Honest and a Sharp leader. As a result, most of the top officials are careful in dealing with him but sadly enough it does not work well for holistic and pro-people governance.  

Over dependence on bureaucracy has led him to an adverse outcome and hostility on other democratic institutions of the state. Precisely because of this failure, that Manik Sarkar brought ire on him and he is invariably blamed which are by and large are not his own faults but failure of his administration and ill advice of the bureaucracy.

After assumption of new government led by Manik Sarkar in 2013, the problem became more acute and open.  The media and media personnel have gradually become unhappy and hostile and started finding faults on everything that Manik Sarkar does and speaks about.

Moreover there has been very poor response and expression of sensibility from his administration.  Unfortunately, guided by officers with poor or hollow knowledge or surrounded by his officers with vested interests external so called intellectuals, he has started making faults in public liaisoning and as a result, his Government lost intellectual coordination leading to failure in maintaining warm & hearty relation with all important media segments and other walks of public life. In past one year he met media quite a few times but every time it is noticed to be deteriorating from the past ones.

My brief exposure and interaction reveals that he stops open interaction even in the organized press conferences and thereby jeopardising friendly relation with media persons in general.

with three other Chief Ministers of India – Nitish Kumar, Shiela Dixit and Prthiviraj Chavan and close interaction in Delhi several times with Rajeev Pratap Ruddy, Dr Jayram Ramesh, Kapil Sibbal and Dr Veerapa Maily and in US with Bill Clinton and hundreds of national and international leaders and professionals in past 6-7 years, in comparison, I find a significant difference in Sarkar’s communication.

Yes, Manik Sarkar is a very kind hearted person but he is disqualified in maintaining rapport with media persons. His communication is always a one sided deliberation where he carefully circumvents the critical issues and so he already got the tag of being a snob. His annoyance and disapproval in interacting with media appears indecent and humiliating.

Now his relation with media in Tripura stands at – most formal under ambience of disregard and disbelief, which is unwarranted and uncalled for any politician in a democratic set up.

When the media bosses advice to call the Chief Minister and get his reaction over any serious issue, we get embarrassed. Because in Tripura, at least I don’t have that relation to call Manik Sarkar directly for his reaction over future of left politics in India and especially after the debacle of left front in 2014 Loksabha poll. I don’t know how many journalists of Tripura could approach him for the same.

Somehow, I find the descended shadow of communist leaders of West Bengal in Tripura now. While addressing media after poll debacle in West Bengal, the Left front Chairman of WB, Biman Bose insulted a senior journalist present in  the press conference in a most indecent and bizarre manner on May 16, which  was telecast  in popular channels of Bengal.

Definitely, this behaviour with a journalist by a senior Communist leader of West Bengal – which in popular parlance regarded as elder brother of Tripura shall encourage the second and third rows leader of CPI-M in Tripura to behave in the similar tune with the media.

Interestingly, the Communists termed the media people in general as ‘Class enemy’ in total disregard to the fact that ours is a democracy where the society is pluralist. And so if this attitude is continued it would aggravate the issue further and in such event the God even shall not be able to save them.

Finally, for whatever bad happens to Tripura the blame goes to Manik Sarkar. I could not find the reason when it’s the responsibility of collective leadership and there are Cabinet ministers separately to look after education, health, transport, water supply and urban development etc why the Chief Minister needs to be blamed for all.

May be; by taking advantage of his strained relationship with media, his party men and the top officials of his administration accuse him for all ills, even for the ones where he is not, just to save their skin of misdeed.

His administration is well-aware of this fact that he is not a friend of media and blaming him in the media is the safest way to go scot free. This is not only restricted to the playing the  blame game alone and in the process a middleman culture has emerged with people surrounding him with petty self interest which unfortunately blocks the vision of Chief Minister with people.

I sincerely hope the 2014 Loksabha election result shall usher in a new era which shall force him to introspect and be an eye-opener for the leftist like Manik Sarkar to re-gain his culture of integrity & self-respect together with expression of courtesies and respect towards others, interaction with all sections of the society with open mind, analyze and encourage self-criticism, go for introspection.

Lastly, fact is sacred and interpretation is yours. Ultimate achievement and loss will remain with him and his party only, no scope to share with citizens.

Biswendu Bhattacharjee

A leading Journalist of Northeast India
Tripura Coordinator of National Election Watch (TREW) & Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)

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