ripura chief minister and veteran CPI(M) leader Manik Sarkar, is facing a formidable electoral challenge from the Congress-Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura alliance in the state assembly election scheduled for February 26.
In an interview with G Vinayak in Agartala, he said the Left Front's track record in the past five years and the Congress' folly of aligning with the INPT would help him to retain power in the state.
How do you assess the Left Front's performance in the past five years?
It is simple. We have worked hard in the past five years and have taken the government to the people. The welfare and developmental schemes have been implemented flawlessly. Even the former minister in-charge of Northeast Arun Shourie has praised us for our performance. A senior BJP leader saying so on the eve of elections is indeed significant. Our government has raised the state's per capita income by about 14 per cent in five years. The GDP has risen by about 15 per cent. These figures themselves indicate the kind of work that we have been able to do at the grassroots.
But the Congress says that the law and order situation has deteriorated in the state during you tenure...
The Congress has no other issue. It talks about insurgency and killings and our failure to curb them but the so-called national party then goes and aligns with the overground front of a militant group. It has become an anti-national party after forging an alliance with the INPT, backed by militants. The Congress knows it cannot capture power through the ballot. So it is trying to use the bullet. The Congress has a clandestine alliance with anti-national forces. The whole world knows the present Congress is not the Congress once led by Gandhiji, Nehru and others.
What are the prospects of the Left Front? Are you sure you will be able to retain power?
Our prospects are becoming brighter every day. There is no doubt we will win the elections. Believe it or not, the Congress party workers, disgusted with the weak leadership of the Congress and continuous in-fighting, have started making a beeline for the CPI(M) and other Left parties.
What about the anti-incumbency factor that everyone is talking about?
You would be surprised, there is no anti-incumbency factor in the rural areas. Whatever you hear is a concerted campaign launched by people who have never been to the interiors. People know we have been able to improve their lot in the past ten years.
It is said that CPI(M)'s tribal bastion is under threat from the Bijoy Hgrankhawl's INPT. How would you react to it?
Again, you must understand that the IPFT (INPT's earlier avatar) had managed to win the Autonomous Council elections through bullet power not ballot power. This time however they will not be able to repeat that exercise since we have enough force now to counter the militants' threat, although intimidation, arson etc against our cadres is still on. Moreover, people have realised that the INPT has not been able to do anything for them in the past three years so they are now determined to vote for us.
If you come back to power, what would be your priorities?
Tripura, despite our success in the past five years, remains a poor state. So our first priority would be to improve the standard of living of all people living in the state. This we can do by making Tripura an economically vibrant state.
How are you going to deal with the possibility of large-scale violence during the run-up to the elections and on voting day?
We have asked for more security forces and the Election Commission has granted our request. More BSF and CRPF battalions have come for election duty. Even the army has been deployed in vulnerable areas for area domination. All these measures would work against any possibility of violence.
Design: Rahil Shaikh