One of the most essential virtues of communism is – “each according to his needs” and most of the time the need is defined by the ruling communists on behalf of its citizens. It was true in old U.S.S.R and it still holds true in communist China where one’s devotion (I use that word intentionally) to the ruling communist party dictates which train one can board to what kind of loan a person can get from the banks. This arbitrated sense of need is what has defined communism throughout its bloody history.
It is the same with Indian communists. Though, these ideologues never had much influence over stare policy in this country but where ever they got their foot in, this practice followed. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) have always talked about the need to stay in touch with people from grassroots and especially farmers and laborers as the party is the manifestation of the collective conscience of the marginal workers. Strangely though, whenever communists came to power, this idea of austere lifestyle and this view towards avoiding ostentatious luxury seem to go away. They become industrialists, land barons and other very capitalistic ventures which necessitate exploitation of the workers and pursuit for the one word that communists abhor – PROFIT.
Indian communist Politburo has never bothered about setting a precedent or model code of conduct for an ‘ideal’ communist leader but one name that became synonymous with simple living and pro people approach is Manik Sarkar, the former chief minister of Tripura. Mr. Sarkar did not take his salary as the chief minister of the stare but unlike others who would donate the money for social causes, he used to donate his entire salary to the C.P.I (M) party fund. He bore his expenses by the miniscule amount provided to him by the party which is estimated around 5,000 INR/Month.
He usually travelled by rickshaw and abhorred taking security details. It was once said in Tripura and it’s neighbouring states that Manik Sarkar represents an ideal communist, always in touch with the people, humble and most importantly in touch with ground reality. It all sounds fantastic, too fantastic perhaps.
There is an old saying – if you think it’s too good to be true then probably it isn’t. During the time Manik Sarkar presided over the state, the state government to implement three revised pay scales of government employees. The gap between the rich and the poor grew wider all the while the government dangled the proletariat dream.
Manik sarkar is nothing but a fine example of how perceptions can be deceiving. We have always heard about how he dislikes availing any government facilities and perks but we often forget that he did took them and it is because of those perks he could afford the charade of simple living and show of humility to the people of Tripura. He availed official residence, official vehicle and other official perks while in office. Moreover, he realized that this perception that he has cultivated over decades is what keeps him in office.
Instances of this ‘proletariat’ ex-CM’s bourgeois demands are numerous. During the oath-taking ceremony of the new CM, Manik Sarkar refused to take a ‘Bolero’ SUV because it had ‘too many’ miles on it. In a further show of ‘humility’ and ‘simplicity’ in a letter to the secretary he demanded that he be given an official residence that is ‘befitting’ of him. Sarkar, when in power, never extended such privileges that now he considers essential to the opposition MLAs. When he was in power, MLAs stayed in Hotels.
It seems the BJP’s slogan of “chalo paltai” has struck a chord with Manik Sarkar. Thus, he has forgotten his communist ideals and have embraced the true “Manik” that he had until now kept under the sham of a common man.
But now, with him out of office and realizing that his political stint is all but finished, he has dropped the garb of a common man that he held so dear. Mr. Manik Sarkar has asked the incumbent BJP government in Tripura for a residence and a SUV as he thinks it would be very impractical to not have those things this late in life. Now, I know many people who throughout their lives never owned a car or a house. These homeless and SUV-less people are the ones who kept Manik Sarkar in power for all this time, especially in Tripura where only a miniscule portion owns cars. This demand may seem like a revelation to many but anybody who is familiar with the opportunistic and exploitative mindset should not be.
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