Tripura Chief Minister turns a year older this week as he celebrates his 50th birthday. Biplab Deb is a new age BJP leader who has turned the saffron party as well as the state’s fortunes around. Rising from the bottom, the Gym trainer turned sangh karyakarta turned state CM – Biplab has donned several hats throughout his career and emerged as a truly self-made man.
Born and brought up in south Tripura’s Udaipur, Biplab moved to the national capital after graduating from Tripura University in the year 1999. In Delhi, he trained under the tutelage of RSS veteran KN Govindacharya before quickly learning the ropes and rising through the ranks.
It was during his time with the RSS that Deb caught the attention of Sunil Deodhar, the BJP’s Tripura in-charge, who scripted the saffron miracle in the red bastion.
He was made the president of the state BJP and in a very short period, he caught the imagination of the electorate, displaying impressive oratory skills and an overall pleasing personality. In 2016, owing to his fresh face and increasing popularity, the BJP high command dispatched him to Tripura and the rest, as they say, is history.
The 25-year-old left rule
The northeastern state had been ruled by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for four straight terms before the BJP stunned the Left Front alliance, winning 35 out of the state’s 59 seats that went to Assembly polls, while ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) won eight.
Manik Sarkar, the CPM pawn who held the CM chair on four occasions was dubbed as the clean guy who had no money. Manik Sarkar used to donate his monthly salary towards his party’s fund, which in turn used to pay him a monthly allowance for his livelihood and allowed him to continue with his PR charade.
However, despite the cleverly crafted clean image, Manik Sarkar was embroiled in the Rose Valley chit fund scam with Biplab calling him the “most corrupt” CM of the state.
The Chief Minister alleged that the erstwhile Left Front government had paved the way for exploitation of people through chit funds, which could be understood as they granted licenses to chit funds, No Objection Certificates (NOC), and also inaugurated events.
Manik Sarkar is alleged to have attended an event of the Rose Valley group in an amusement park in Tripura in 2008. Later, trying to deflect from the heat, Sarkar claimed that his government was not even aware that Rose Valley was a chit fund company.
Purging the left and its ideology
Two days after the Biplab led BJP dethroned the CPM from Tripura in 2018, a Vladimir Lenin statue was toppled in the state’s Belonia town to send a symbolic message that the left’s reign of fear had finally come to an end.
— ANI (@ANI) March 5, 2018
In addition to erecting statues of communist idols, the ruling Left Front and Communists had imposed their ideological bias upon the education curriculum of the state. The Communist regime had started the Agartala Book Fair in the year 1980-81 and it used to be one of the oldest and biggest book fairs in the Northeast. However, SFI had come under the scanner for propagating anti-India sentiment at the Book Fair.
After taking the charge, Biplab started the purge on this front as well. As reported by TFI, he inaugurated the Fair at Hapania International Fair Ground, which is 5 kilometres away from Agartala. The venue was shifted from the Umakanta Academy.
Speaking about the change, CM Biplab Kumar Deb had remarked, “This book fair is an example of model state. The fair was organized for the first time out of Agartala city, bringing it close to people from the suburbs.” For a heartening change, the Book Fair also started by paying homage to the CRPF troopers who had sacrificed their lives in the Pulwama terror attack, a year prior to the event.
After storming to power, he had also said, “The Communists only wanted the people of Tripura to study Mao and forget our Hindu kings. They removed Mahatma Gandhi from textbooks in government-run schools. I am going to implement NCERT syllabus in all these schools which will also have chapters on Tripura’s history.”
Media hounding Biplab who remains unperturbed
Before Biplab, the state of Tripura was in a dilapidated condition and the only noteworthy association with the state was that its CM used to be the poorest state head of the world. A feat that no one took any pride in whatsoever.
The state was seen as an isolated, neglected part of India. As such, the mainstream media was never very vocal about issues concerning Tripura. Traditionally, the Northeast never made “breaking news” and headlines, unless there was a terror attack or a bomb blast. However, once Manik’s government bit the dust, the media suddenly developed interest in Tripura.
However, some off-the-cuff remarks of Biplab; be it his connection of the Mahabharata with Internet and modern technology or his criticism of ex-Miss World Diana Hayden – the left-liberal media has left no stone unturned to hound him incessantly.
Despite the media trying to paint him as a naïve leader, the common folks of Tripura love him. And why shouldn’t they, for the state has been performing better on development indices than another left ruled state Kerala.
Tripura performing better than Kerala on development indices: Biplab Deb
Earlier this year, in a media briefing Biplab had drawn the comparison between Tripura and Kerala by stating, “The gross state domestic product (GSDP) growth in Tripura is 11.4% in 2019-20 while the same is 11.2% in Kerala. The growth in primary sector is 16.2% in Tripura against Kerala’s 6.19%. In MSME sector it is 14.2% in Tripura and 9.7% in Kerala,”
As of last year, Tripura’s per capita income was set to cross the National Average. According to official documents, the per capita income of Tripura was Rs 1,13,467 in 2018-19 against the net national per capita income estimated to be Rs 1,25,397.
Under the present government, those living even in remote and rural areas of the state have received electricity connections through the Soubhagya Yojana- a feat rather unheard in previous left regimes.
Moreover, in the month of October, the total GST revenue collection increased by 17 percent year-on-year from Rs 57 crore to Rs 67 crore.
Biplab Deb, a key piece of India’s foreign policy in the neighbourhood
Not only this, Biplab has become an integral part of the centre’s foreign policy. In 2019, the Tripura CM had flown to Delhi to receive the Bangladesh PM, Sheikh Hasina after the latter requested a specific meeting with the Tripura CM.
India thus found a Bengali-speaking leader in Biplab Deb in its pursuit of closer ties with the neighboring country of Bangladesh. The hot and cold relationship between West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and the Bangladesh Prime Minister over the Teesta Water treaty was not allowing India and Bangladesh to make full use of the historical and linguistic affinity in the present bilateral relations.
But the two countries found a clear alternative in Biplab Deb- the Chief Minister of the Bengali speaking state of Tripura. Apart from strengthening Indo-Bangladesh ties, the move also illustrated the enhanced role of Tripura India’s Northeastern leaders in India’s bilateral relations, especially when it comes to India’s neighbours in the Northeastern region.
Biplab Deb is truly the leader that the state of Tripura needed. He is currently locked in a battle with TMC and Mamata that is trying to breach the state ahead of the civic polls. However, he is holding the fort powerfully and continuing to deliver on the promises to the people of Tripura.