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'Biplab's removal was a bolt from blue'

May 18, 2022 08:01 IST

''At a time when people don't like to even sacrifice their panchayat seat, Biplab Kumar Deb sacrificed the chair of chief minister with a smiling face.'

IMAGE: Biplab Kumar Deb, left, with Dr Manik Saha, second from left, his successor as Tripura chief minister, May 15, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo/Biplab Kumar Deb Twitter

Sushanta Chowdhury is Tripura's minister of for information and cultural affairs, youth affairs and sports, drinking water and sanitation.

In an interview with Prasanna D Zore/ to discuss political developments in the north east state after Biplab Kumar Deb's removal as Tripura's chief minister at the weekend, Chowdhury -- the Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Majlishpur, says, "While it cannot be disclosed as to what prompted the high command to take such a call, they must have kept something in mind... So, whatever the party decides we have to abide by that decision."

What is the mood among BJP MLAs like after Biplab Kumar Deb was asked to step down?

The organisation (the BJP) and administration (of the Tripura government) were running very smoothly, especially in the last six-seven months. It was going on very smoothly, but the decision (to replace Biplab Kumar Deb by the BJP's central leadership) came as a bolt from the blue.

Still, if the party decided (to replace him), then I think it is for the betterment of the party.

We, being disciplined and loyal soldiers of the party, welcome the decision. Whatever they (the BJP high command in Delhi) have asked, we must and we will abide by that.

Were Tripura's BJP MLAs taken into confidence by the BJP high command before bringing in a new chief minister?

All the MLAs and ministers were taken into confidence before the meeting of the legislature party (called to name Dr Manik Saha as the next CM). The name (of Dr Saha) was proposed and it was supported subsequently by a majority of MLAs and ministers, including the outgoing CM (Biplab Kumar Deb).

It was the decision of the party high command and it was done in accordance with the guidelines of the party's constitution.

But, is the BJP high command's decision in accordance with the will of the people of Tripura given, as you say, that Biplab Kumar Deb was quite popular in the state?

See, this is a very controversial question. Tripura has a population of as many as 37 lakh (3.7 million) people. Is it possible on the part of any government, any party, to take the decision or mandate from each and every individual? It is not possible.

So, whatever the party decides we have to abide by that decision, we being disciplined soldier of the party.

We must, and we do, stand by the decision of the party high command, and go for the next course of action.

Tripura is just moving ahead towards being a resurgent state. Biplab Deb has played a pivotal role in doing the same under the able stewardship of our honourable Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In the coming days, it is expected that the new chief minister will fulfill the hopes and aspirations of the people of our state and take Tripura towards development progress, prosperity and glory.

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi, left, then Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Anilchandra Shah, centre, and then Tripura chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb, right, at the swearing-in ceremony of ministers in Agartala, March 9, 2018. Photograph: PTI Photo

Did the BJP high command take Tripura BJP's legislature party into confidence as to what necessitated the change of chief minister when Biplab Kumar Deb was doing as good as you claim he was doing?

While I don't know that (the reason for changing Biplab Kumar Deb) it cannot be disclosed as to what prompted the high command to take such a call, but they must have kept something in mind. Whatever they have done is for the betterment of the party.

The party high command will be in a position to tell it.

Won't this decision affect the morale of BJP MLAs in the state given that he was replaced just a year before assembly elections are due in Tripura?

The BJP is a party of discipline and character. All the karyakartas (workers) from the booth level, mandal level, to the state and national level are disciplined enough to understand the reasons behind the decision.

We will make people understand that they must stand by the development agenda chalked out by Narendra Modiji, they must stand by Amit Shahji and J P Naddaji.

Biplab Kumar Deb has been and will remain an integral part of our party and the administration. He will keep his confidence in the leadership of the party high command and in the coming days make use of his ability to win the (next assembly) election.

Is Biplab Kumar Deb not sour with the party for being replaced as chief minister?

I was in a party programme 15 minutes ago (before this telephonic interview) and in my speech I have categorically stated to around 1,000 karyakartas that at a time when people don't like to even sacrifice their panchayat seat, Biplab Kumar Deb sacrificed the chair of chief minister with a smiling face to his successor.

The spirit of sacrifice and amount of love that Biplab Kumar Deb has shown for the party is incredible and that is what characterises each and every BJP karyakarta.

How confident are BJP MLAs of coming back to power in the state after this episode?

The people of Tripura were under the murderous rule of the CPI-M for the last 25 years. It is only the BJP and Prime Minister Modi who rescued us from their slavery in 2018. It was Biplab Deb, then president of the party, who took Tripura away from the CPI-M.

Now, it is on the basis of our performance that the people of Tripura will bring the BJP back to power in the 2023 election. Majority of the people of the state don't want the CPI-M to come back to power.

Other Opposition parties like the Congress and Trinamool Congress don't have any foothold in Tripura.

So on the basis of the performance delivered during last four years, especially during the covid pandemic, our government has earned the confidence of a cross section of people. On the basis of that we are going to win the election in 2023.

Won't Biplab Kumar Deb's removal be seen as an unpopular decision by the people of Tripura?

Whatever is decided by the high command, we are bound to abide by those decisions.

What decisions can Dr Manik Saha take to endear himself to the people of Tripura given he has less than a year as chief minister?

This is not the first time it is happening. The same situation arose in Uttarakhand also. The incumbent chief minister in Uttarakhand was replaced just about four months before the election and Pushkar Singh Dhami was made chief minister. He got defeated in the next election, but even then the party entrusted him with the chief ministership once again.

If you are a true leader, then victory or defeat is not the criteria that decides your comeback. That does not decide if you are a good leader or not.

Manik Saha is a sober, humble person, a doctor by profession all through his life. He started his journey in the BJP as an ordinary karyakarta and now he has occupied the chair of chief minister, which amply signifies the fact that anything and everything is possible when it comes to the BJP.