In his rural turf of Thalibari, Manik Sarkar revels in the local idiom

first_imgThe storyteller in Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar is in full flow beyond the urban limits of the State capital of Agartala.The habit of embellishing the narrative with metaphors invariably makes him overshoot the schedule. At Thalibari, about 90 km south of Agartala, breaking down the BJP’s “dangerous design” for the predominantly tribal voters takes him 80 minutes.Thalibari is a market almost on the cusp of the tribal autonomous district council (ADC) and the non-tribal part of Mr. Sarkar’s pet Dhanpur Assembly constituency bordering Bangladesh. He is seeking his fifth straight victory from here since 1998.“The BJP is like the cuckoo that comes in the spring to sing, never to be heard again for the rest of the year. They will try to lure you with cash once so that they can fleece you on behalf of the rich people for the rest of the term,” he says.Colour symbolismMr. Sarkar then tries to drive home the difference between colours – the red of communism that is irrigated with the blood and sweat of the underprivileged and the saffron of fundamentalism that only spills blood.The tenor had been similar at Uttar Taibandal and Dakkhin Taibandal earlier in the day, and in Baramura later. “He has been attending an average five public meetings, and he uses a style the people at the grassroots can relate to,” a representative of the daily Desher Katha, the mouthpiece of CPI(M), says.The style is in contrast to the acerbic tone Mr. Sarkar often adopts in the urban landscape. In Agartala the night before, he was matter-of-fact: “The BJP’s credo is chalo paltai (Let’s change). Do they want to change the peace Tripura has been experiencing, or the performance of the State in various beneficiary schemes? In that case, they want violence and underdevelopment.”Dhanpur in Sepahijala district is one of the few constituencies in Tripura where three categories of voters — tribal, Bengali Hindus and Muslims — are almost equally distributed. Geographically, about 40% of the constituency falls in the ADC.“It will be difficult for the BJP to penetrate this seat where the tribal people and Muslims are solidly behind the Left Front,” the party’s district committee member Nakul Malla says.Mr. Sarkar, who had only two rivals in 2013, is up against two women — Lakshmi Nag Barman of the Congress and Pratima Bhoumik of the BJP — and Jahir Uddin of the Trinamool Congress.‘Battling two Maniks’Ms. Bhoumik, who fancies her chances in Dhanpur riding the “change wave”, says she is battling two Maniks — the Chief Minister and returning officer Manik Lal Das, the Additional District Magistrate.“One Manik (officer) is working for the other Manik (CM) to harass us. We have lodged a complaint against the ADM,” she said.Mr. Das denied he was being partial. “I am doing my job according to the guidelines of the Election Commission,” he told The Hindu.Mr. Sarkar is now know as the poorest Chief Minister with a paltry ₹1520 cash in hand and a bank balance of just ₹2410.last_img

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