The Bharatiya Janata Party’s Mission 2024 begins with Tripura, amid perceived anger on the ground. Making matters more challenging for the party is that the Congress and Left, which were once bitter foes, have struck a seat-sharing deal. However, dental surgeon-turned-chief minister Manik Saha is confident that there will be a tsunami in favour of the BJP. In an interview with the Prasanta Mazumdar, he said “Bamgress” (‘bam’ meaning ‘left’ in Bengali) and gress (Congress) will be a boon in disguise for the BJP.
What are BJP’s prospects in the Assembly polls?
BJP will retain power. We are getting an unprecedented response from people.
Why should people re-elect the BJP?
People will back us for our achievements. We improved connectivity, built roads and
other infrastructure, and restored peace. The highway from Agartala to Sabroom is on par with the best in the country. Work is underway for six national highways. Funds worth `10,222 crore have been sanctioned for seven more national highways. We will take these to people as we go to elections. I always say that roads show us the road. As far as internet is concerned, Tripura has the third strongest internet system in the country. We had never imagined that Tripura will get railhead. Today, 11 express trains, including Rajdhani, run from the state.
Why are BJP leaders highlighting only central government initiatives?
The state government also has several achievements to its credit. The government fulfilled the long-standing demand for a dental college. Crime rate has dropped drastically. We ensured 33% reservation for women, and set up seven all-woman police stations, and installed CCTVs at various places to ensure the safety of women and girls. During the pandemic, the government gave free ration and `1,000 each to 6.75 lakh poor families. We gave promotion to doctors who were serving in the same grade for 22 years. We set up seven super-speciality hospitals, and improved health facilities. We took up a project for the birth of cows (not bulls) through artificial insemination. This government distributed 75,000 mobile phones to students. It also solved the problem of Brus by resettling them with Centre’s help. About 3,000 TET-qualified teachers were appointed in a transparent manner. Earlier, the jobs used to go only to the supporters of the ruling party. The social pension given to the poor has been increased to `2,000 from `700 given during the Left Front regime. The salaries of government employees have been also hiked.
Is BJP concerned over Left-Congress alliance?
The Congress and Left do not trust each other. . For 25 years, CPM unleashed terror. Now that they have come together, there cannot be anything sadder than this. People are not liking it. It is good for us that their alliance is out in the open. Previously, it was clandestine. That they are the two sides of the same coin is now proven.
TIPRA Motha has polarised the tribals on the ‘Greater Tipraland’ statehood demand…
Greater Tipraland is not practical. They have not been able to cite its geography. They did politics by driving a wedge between tribals and non-tribals. Now, they are going along with non-tribals by fielding them in the general seats. They are riddled with problems. People do not support political instability. It is good for us.
The BJP said there will be no division of Tripura. Will the party suffer in the tribal areas?
We have 10 elected members in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.
People live in a fool’s paradise if they think we have no strength in the tribal areas.
Will BJP forge an alliance with TIPRA Motha after the polls?
There will be a tsunami of votes in favour of the BJP. Therefore, the possibility of post-poll alliance is very thin. We are together with (tribe-based) Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura. We will work with anybody if the intention is the welfare of the tribals.