Agartala: Tripura BJP’s ‘Chalo Paltai’ (Let’s Change) election slogan seems to have touched upon former Tripura CM Manik Sarkar whose popularity has taken a hit with report of him asking for an SUV and a new residence from the ruling BJP government.
Even though it appears to be a routine administrative formality, critics are of the opinion that Sarkar's image as the country's poorest CM is not tantamount to his need for comfort or luxury.
In a letter addressed to the Secretary of Tripura Legislative Assembly on March 26, the CPI(M) leader has asked for arrangements to be made for a ‘befitting residential quarter’, mentioning that he has no permanent residence. The opposition leader has specifically asked for one of the three new quarters being constructed near the Shishubihar Higher Secondary School at the Minister Quarter Lane in Agartala, where former minister Bijita Nath used to stay.
In a report published in ‘Daily Desher Katha’, a CPI(M) Tripura State Committee mouthpiece, it was said that Sarkar had written to the Assembly Secretary asking for a residential quarter and had verbally asked for either an Innova, or a Scorpio car, to visit constituencies.
The BJP was quick to react to this report with party spokesperson Mrinal Kanti Dey calling Sarkar a liar and thanking him for proving their allegations to be true.
“The things that we had said earlier now stands to be true. He had built this image of a modest man travelling in train or cycling his way to work. In his era, all opposition leaders stayed in MLA hostels and never demanded anything. His demands are a blotch on the ideals of communism,” said Dey.
The report further revealed that Sarkar was offered an Ambassador car on the day of the oath-taking ceremony of the new BJP-IPFT coalition government, which he refused on grounds of a doctor’s advice against his back pain. Later, he was offered a Bolero, which the Opposition leader returned citing it was an old car that had run several lakh kilometre for five years.
The Congress, on the other hand, lashed out at the media for being a myth-spinner venerating Manik Sarkar as a ‘simple man’.
“What made the myth possible is the affidavit that Manik Sarkar filed during the February elections after which he was regarded as the poorest chief minister of the country. We believed him to be a simple man. In fact, the entire political spectrum in India knows him to be so. This desire for luxury does not suit that image. He has now given scope to his critics to question his intentions,” said Congress spokesperson, Tapas Dey.
In his election affidavit, Sarkar had declared assets of Rs 1,520 cash in hand and Rs 2,410 in a bank account. He was known to have donated his entire salary as chief minister to the party. In turn, he was drawing a monthly allowance of around Rs 9,000.
With inputs from Tanmoy Chakraborty