By Neha Dwivedi:
“We do not keep any secret from the people – that is our secret. We are transparent.”
The grapevine surrounding Arvind KejrivalÂ joining the likes of Mamata Banerjee, Manik Sarkar and Manohar Parrikar isn’t staggering. Finding honest politicians in the current scenario is rare and with Arvind Kejrival joining the wagon of “poor Chief Ministers”, there are hopes of India reclaiming its tagline ‘sone ki chidiya’ very soon. While the aforementioned politicians have a lot in common, there is one leader whose work overpowers the rest: Manik Sarkar.
Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar is a living example of ‘honesty and leadership’ walking hand in hand. Conferred as the “Poorest Chief Minister of India”, Manik Sarkar is a man of principles and intellectual charm. An Indian communist politician, he was selected as the Chief Minister of Tripura for the fourth consecutive term beating Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. A Gandhian by nature, he diverges from the dictionary definition of communism and appreciates the tag of being the “Poorest Chief Minister of India.”
An impeccably honest man, he is the only Chief Minister of India to not own a house or a car. His wife, Panchali Bhattacharya, a retired officer of the Central government still takes an auto Rickshaw to buy vegetables. In the backdrop of rising corruption and multi-crore scams, the existence of Manik Sarkar is certainly a phenomenon. Uncorrupted by power, his bank balance stands at just Rs 9,720, a sheer contrast to politicians who believe in supplementing their bank balance by increasing the number of zeroes succeeding the single digits.
“An army of the people is invincible!” Born in middle class family, Manik Sarkar was active in political movements since student days. A revolutionary by nature, he played a major role in the food movement against the then Congress’ Government of Tripura, leading to which he was inducted as a member of Communist Party Of India (Marxist) in 1968. His affair with politics commenced long back in college when he was made the General Secretary of MBB College Student Union and later the Vice President of Students Federation of India. At the age of 23, he was inducted into the CPI (M). Seeing his enthusiasm and quench he was elected as the Chief Minister of Tripura in March 1998, and is a Politburo member of CPI (M). One of the longest serving Chief Ministers of our country, he shares popularity with great politicians like Jyothi Basu and Nripen Chakraborty.
Taking into account the geographical and demographic conditions of the state, one can estimate the social, economical, political and psychological atmosphere surrounding it. At a time when politicians were busy manipulating sentiments of the poor and playing the ethnic battle trump card, Manik Sarkar came as a breath of fresh air. Rejecting politics as a means to acquire power or gain money, he belongs to a breed of rare politicians whose number is declining fast. When he took over as the Chief Minister of Tripura in 1998 the state was in a turmoil. The fault line that began with Britishers entering continued to exist. The influx of refugees caused 25% increase in the population, leading to constant struggle between the migrants and the tribals, whose proportion had apparently reduced from 50% to 35%. The economy was dooming and the literacy rate was very low. With farmer suicide at its peak, the employment rate had similar story to say.
Change didn’t come easy to Tripura but Manik Sarkar made sure that it did. Thanks to his noteworthy policies like free and compulsory education and four stage education policy, school dropout rates fell significantly. His later tenures served as land mark years for various small scale industries, large scale projects, hydro-electric power projects and tourism projects. Number of IIIT, ITIs, and medical and dental colleges cropped up. While Tripura is 3rd highest in the country in terms of literacy, employment continues to be a major problem but with another tenure ahead, Manik Sarkar has a lot of promises to look forward to.
“Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.”
Unperturbed by false allegations, Manik Sarkar believes in walking ahead. A personification of simple living and somebody who was destined to become a politician, he churned out to be a leader – a leader of masses. Not relying on the Central government to solve the issues of the state, he is a leader of true identity. With his head on his shoulders, Manik Sarkar has a long way to go.