Manik Sarkar set to create political history

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Bangalore, March 7: Manik Sarkar has set his sight on creating political history in Tripura by becoming the chief minister for the fourth straight term.

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had it dead right when, on the eve of the voting for the 60 member assembly, he said, they would not only retain power, but would improve in its tally in the house. March 7, when the results started coming in, his prediction to be not only proved on target. Left has not only retained power for the fourth consecutive term; it has proved all the sceptics wrong by surpassing its previous tally. Dealing a humilating blow to the Congress-INPT alliance that had staked a lot in this election.

As trends from the counting of the votes poured in, election officials said the Left Front was expected to end up with nearly 49 seats in the 60 member assembly. In the 2003 elections, out of the total 60 seats, the Left Front, mainly the CPM, won 41seats. The Congress-INPT combine got just 19 seats last time.

The predicted tally, analysts and political workers said, was by any rate a stupendous electoral performance considering the fact that this is the first Left-ruled state to go to polls after Nandigram and Singur. CPI(M) should be happy that Nadnigram and Singur violence has not demoralized the CPM in Tripura.

Manik Sarkar, a close follower of late chief minister Nripen Chakraborty who was the father figure of the Communist movement in Tripura, is all set to become the longest serving chief minister in the country after marxist veterans Jyoti Basu and Nripen Chakraborty. The Marxist leader is contesting the assembly elections for the fifth time since 1981 and this time he won the Dhanpur constituency by defeating his nearest rival by 2,900 votes.

The Left Front has been ruling Tripura since 1978 barring one term between 1988 and 1993 when the Congress came to power.

Sarkar is the probably the poorest chief minister in India. He has no home and his bank balance is just Rs.13,920. The 59-year-old Marxist has no land, no vehicle and no other moveable or immoveable assets.

Sarkar's financial condition came to light when he submitted nominations along with an affidavit declaring his assets on Jan 31 ahead of the Feb 23 assembly elections.

"As chief minister, Sarkar received a monthly salary of Rs.9,200 and subsidiary allowance of Rs.1,200 per month and these amounts he donates to the party fund, like other party men," said Gautam Das, the state spokesman of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

A non-smoker and teetotaller, Sarkar's critics and archrivals in the Congress and other opposition parties are also quite impressed by his personal integrity and honesty.

"We have no doubt about his honesty, but most of Sarkar's fellow party leaders and workers are not honest," said Tapas Dey, former legislator and Congress spokesman.

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