Former Tripura chief minister, CPM heavyweight and leader of opposition, Manik Sarkar, alleged that after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in the northeastern state in 2018, ‘jungle raj’ or lawlessness has been prevailing in the state and there is no implementation of the Indian Constitution.
In an interview with Hindustan Times, Manik Sarkar, who was chief minister of Tripura for 20 years from 1998, also spoke about the Trinamool Congress’ continuing efforts to build its base in the state. Edited excerpts:
How do you see the status of the Left parties in Tripura after the BJP came to power?
The opposition is under attack in Tripura. They cannot exercise their democratic rights. We have never raised slogans of uprooting the existing government from the very beginning.
I was restrained several times during my visit to different areas. Besides, many opposition legislators are also facing objections while entering into their own constituency.
Being an opposition leader, I have to go to each and every constituency. People are struggling with poverty, hunger and other basic amenities. Should I not go to them? Opposition voices are scuttled here, there is no freedom and rule of law.
How would you rate the BJP government in Tripura?
The BJP failed to implement what they promised before coming to polls in 2018. Many of our party offices were set ablaze, party supporters’ houses were attacked and even the media is under attack. Advocates who stood beside the attacked people, also faced attacks.
Practically, rule of law is replaced by rule of jungle. If we want to say in one sentence, there is no implementation of Indian Constitution in Tripura.
Tripura witnessed a volatile situation recently. What do you think the reason for the situation?
The BJP government has become unpopular due to its anti-people policies and attacks on democratic rights. They are getting more and more detached from people; these fascist attacks are out of desperation.
The administration, on the other hand, has been arm twisted and pressurised by ruling party. Without any space to work freely, Tripura Police, which won Presidents Colour during our tenure, isn’t able to perform. We are absolutely unsatisfied with the action taken on the attacks on our party workers.
But Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb accused CPM of violence and blamed the party of trying to plunge Tripura into lawlessness?
(Laughs) People have seen what happened.
What will be the Left Front’s strategy to fight the 2023 assembly polls?
Our strategy is to stand by the working class people- farmers, daily wage labours, minorities, indigenous, other backward classes etc. We want to ensure peace and restoration of democracy. We shall build movement among the people.
We accepted the verdict of the people in 2018. But, people have started raising questions about performance of the ruling government. Those who were misled earlier, have realised and confessed that they have made a gross error.
A government, within so less period, cannot become isolated from the masses. We are in our real place – connected with the masses. That’s why, we had to face attacks.
If we would have been in power, then attacks on party offices, vandalisation of former chief minister Dasarath Deb’s statue and other (incidents of) violence would not have happened.
Apart from the BJP, the Left Front now has another contender, Trinamool Congress. Is there any possibility of forging an alliance with TMC or any other regional party for 2023 polls?
The Left Front came into existence through ceaseless struggle on the basis of common people’s livelihood issues. So, from where does the question of poll alliance comes? The Trinamool Congress has not come to Tripura for the first time.
They have been coming here since formation of their party here. We are expressing ourselves and they are also doing the same. People will decide which one is right and which one is not. So far, the Left Front is not thinking about electoral alliance with any party.
Our daily activities are different from electoral politics. We don’t do politics only for the votes. So, question of political alliance doesn’t arise with any other party.
If there is no chance of a pre-poll alliance with TMC, will the resultant division of votes help the BJP gain majority in the elections?
How can you say who is helping whom in what ways? (smiles)
How confident is the Left Front of winning Assembly polls in 2023?
We are not thinking about this now. We are working to ensure food and shelter for the people and to restore democracy.