Manik Sarkar, who has been Chief Minister of Tripura for the past 20 years and is attempting a fifth term, has accused the Modi government of being in cahoots with the separatist tribal party, Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT), and declares that the people of the northeastern state will fight "tooth and nail" to prevent its division."The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership is using the terror collaborator IPFT as hunting cocks and plotting multi-faceted conspiracies against the Left Front government in Tripura," Sarkar told IANS in an interview ahead of the February 18 assembly polls.Sarkar, 69, has accused the BJP-led central government of putting up an economic blockade against the Left Front government in Tripura, and of all the top leaders of the saffron party and central ministers, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, "pouncing on the state like eagles" in order to oust the Left from power."As part of their conspiracy, a series of meetings was held between the IPFT leaders and government officials, Minister in the PMO Jitendra Singh, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and finally with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi -- but everything was kept secret and nothing was shared about these meetings with the state government," said Sarkar, who has been in power since 1998.On the IPFT's demand for a separate state, the Chief Minister said that "the people of Tripura will fight tooth and nail to thwart the division of Tripura".
He said that Tripura's post-independence history has been "marked by ethnic peace and amity and even though fissiparous forces tried to disturb peace for a brief while, Tripura maintained perfect ethnic harmony"."When terrorist outfits realised that their demand of 'Sovereign Tripura' would never be accomplished, then the IPFT raised the separate state demand to drive a wedge between tribals and non-tribals," said Sarkar.Sarkar, who has termed the poll tie-up between the BJP and IPFT an "unholy alliance", said it was aimed at dividing Tripura. "But we will not let this happen.""Despite being a national party, the BJP has no policy -- or it would not forge an alliance with IPFT," said the Chief Minister, adding that the tribal party was "destroying the future of the tribals"."The IPFT, with support from BJP, is trying to remove Tripura's name from history. So long as Left parties are in the state this detrimental plan would not be allowed to happen," he stated.Since 2009, the IPFT has been agitating for upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) into a separate tribal state. Most major political parties, including the CPI-M, Congress, BJP and other tribal-based parties, have rejected the demand, saying it is not practical to divide the small state which has a population of around four million.
Attacking the Modi government, Sarkar said: "Every month four to five central ministers would be visiting Tripura. After holding meetings with us and state officials, and voicing appreciation at the state government's achievements, these central ministers would go to the BJP office here or address party meetings where they would make slanderous speeches against my government. When our officials write to the Centre telling them about the reality, it just keeps mum."Taking on the Prime Minister, he said that Modi during his election campaign accused the Tripura government of not having spent central funds. "But the central government itself has either reduced or stopped funding to the state under many schemes and projects, including MGNREGA," Sarkar said.Sarkar, a Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Politburo member, claimed that the Centre has "not been providing the Rs 1,700 crore-Rs 2,000 crore" due to the state every year. "They have also been ignoring our appeals and letters in this regard," he added.
Among India's Left leaders Sarkar is one of the main faces and key political figures. Tripura has been ruled by the Left Front since 1978 with a five-year break between 1988 and 1993, when the Congress and its tribal party ally Tripura Upajati Juba Samity were in power.The Chief Minister said that Prime Minister Modi and the BJP should first implement their 2014 poll pledges, and then raise fingers against the Left Front government, which he said has drawn the attention of the entire country for its good governance and also won many national awards."The BJP leadership, after having failed to create anarchy, tried to promulgate President's Rule in Tripura. It motivated the IPFT to blockade the state's vital National Highway and lone railway line, like in Manipur, and it also directed officials not to release the due central funds. All this is besides the continued malicious campaign against the Left leadership," he added.
"The Narendra Modi government's policies and the activities of the BJP workers have created a deep crisis for the entire country, and led to panic among the minorities and others," Sarkar said.Sarkar said his government had made school education free and students get their text books free of cost on the day the results of their annual exams are declared. "In terms of education we have moved far ahead, and Tripura is a leading state not only in education but in all indexes of human development."The Manik Sarkar government -- in a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country -- has launched more than 30 social pensions and schemes from its own funds to benefit over 400,000 people belonging to all sections.Sarkar, who has been in the election fray since 1981, has been elected to the state assembly six times -- in 1981 (by-polls), 1983, 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013. He is seeking re-election in the February 18 polls from the Dhanpur (western Tripura) assembly constituency for the fifth consecutive time.