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Manik Sarkar – standing head high

Ratnadeep Choudhury
He has only Rs.13, 920 in his bank account and even does not have a home that he can call his ‘own’ but believe it or not - he is a Chief

Minister of a state for past one decade and it seems there is no stopping for him. That’s Manik Sarkar – always in his white Kurta – Payjamma , an eloquent Marxist who has engineered Tripura’s running on the track of ‘Development’ and now he has led the Left front to its fourth consecutive win in Tripura – a record in itself.

Ask any one in Tripura to describe their Chief Minister; they would use two Cs – Clean and Cool.  A man with clean image and cool temperament –but he has a heart full of aspirations, which has not only pressed him to swathe a long journey from a rookie student leader to a connoisseur politician, but also to take his state to global acclaim – a feat which none of his predecessors could achieve. “The government has been able to bring both peace and prosperity” Sarkar opined. If the fifteen years long Left Front rule in this distant northeastern state is something admirable, then more exemplary is its Chief Minister.

Sarkar, who is perhaps the ‘poorest’ CM in the county, was born to a middle-class family on January 22nd 1949, at Radhakishorepur in South Tripura district, Sarkar was inspired by communist ideology in his early school days. He joined the student movements when he was studying at the prestigious MBB College at Agartala, the state capital. Widely known for his honesty, Sarkar became a CPI (M) party member in 1968. He entered the party secretariat in 1978. In the 70s he spearheaded the student movement in the state. Sarkar got a berth in the CPI (M) central committee in 1985. He made his maiden appearance in state legislative assembly in 1980 when he was elected MLA from Agartala. As years past his incredible devotion for the party propelled him to become the state secretary of CPI (M) in 1993. Five years down the line- in 1998 this non-smoker became the Chief Minister for the first time. In 2003, he doubled his reign.  Married to Panchali Bhattacharya, a central government officer, the couple sadly does not have a child.

His modest living is something that his party men feel proud of.  “As Chief Minister, Sarkar received a monthly salary of Rs 9,200 and subsidiary allowance of Rs 1,200 per month and these amounts he donates to the party fund, like other party men,” Gautam Das, the State spokesman of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) was quoted by a news agency. Even his political opponents revere him for his unmatchable integrity. “We have no doubt about his honesty,” said Tapas Dey, former legislator and Congress spokesman. Sarkar was a close follower of late Chief Minister Nripen Chakraborty who was the father figure of the Communist movement in Tripura. With this empathic win Sarkar has made a place in the record books.

Now Sarkar is not only the longest serving Chief Minister of Tripura but he is also in-sight of becoming the longest serving Chief Minister in Northeast if he can cross former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang’s 19 years rule.

Being in the hot seat for past ten years, Sarkar has many feathers to his cap. Steady decline in insurgency, increase in private investment, remarkable improvement in higher education sector, successful implementation of public-private partnership model – have all gone to make Sarkar stand tall among the other Chief Minister’s of the region. His government is viewing natural gas, bamboo and natural rubber as the three main opportunity sectors in the state and has been asking long-term Central policy for the effective utilization of the State's substantial natural gas reserves.  

Taming insurgency – Sarkar has been able to arouse interest among foreign investors for Tripura. "With the two-and-a-half-decade-old militancy showing signs of abating, countries like China, Japan, Germany, Thailand and Bangladesh, besides Indian investors, have shown interest to invest in or provide financial assistance to Tripura," Sarkar told a news agency. Sarkar has also been advocating the linkage of the East-West corridor through Tripura. “Tripura has 44 km of border with Assam in the plains area, and 865 km of border with Bangladesh, mostly plains thus the state can really become the gateway for Northeast to the South east Asia.” The CPI (M) Polit Bureau member added.

The ‘Sarkar Era’ has seen Tripura getting foreign aid. China has agreed to provide technology to set up bamboo-based industries and livelihood opportunities to farmers and tribal people, while the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) would provide Rs.3.66 billion as soft loan to the state. "Germany will also provide Rs.1.12 billion for ecological conservation projects and development of livelihood resources for tribals and other forest dwellers," the chief minister said.

While the Left has of late been troubled by a tussle between industrialization and agriculture, here you have a Leftist Chief Minister who adopted latest technology to boost agriculture. “The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) technology for paddy cultivation has increased productivity of rice from 2.5 tonnes per hectare to about 3.5 tonnes per hectare in the state. By motivating the farmers, seed replacement rate in respect of high yielding and hybrid varieties has increased to 33 per cent.” Sarkar once proudly said in a public programme. He now aims to take the state to food grain self-sufficiency by 2010-12.

Come what may, this dal-rice loving Marxist has a brand of his own and his people vote for him simply because he lives by example and goes on achieving milestones.             March 2008

Ratnadeep Choudhury is a freelance journalist based at Agartala, the capital of the Northeastern state of Tripura. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.