April 14, 2017: History has always been a controversial academic discipline subject to manipulation and political use. Nothing illustrates this better than the government of India’s project of sponsoring a comprehensive multi-volume history of the freedom movement titled ‘Towards Freedom’. A group of professional historians with Marxist political affiliation had been entrusted with the responsibility and they sabotaged the onerous task for many years simply because the extremely shady role of the Marxists or Communists could not be brought to light, let alone highlighting their role. A number of volumes have seen the day of light but the work is not yet complete.
IANS | Agartala, Feb 1, 2018:
Marxist leader Manik Sarkar, who has been guiding the destiny of Tripura for 20 long years, remains arguably India’s poorest Chief Minister, with a paltry Rs 1,520 cash in hand and Rs 2,410 in a bank account.
In an affidavit submitted prior to Assembly Election 2017 with his nomination papers seeking re-election from his Dhanpur constituency for the February 18 assembly polls, the 69-year-old Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Politburo member declared his assets, including bank balance and immovable assets.
By Tapas Dey | February 16, 2018
The people of Tripura were possibly in a state of pleasant surprise as they had heard the prime minister Narendra Modi sing eulogies to the state’s last monarch Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya.
– ” The late Maharaja had done so much for the state and its people by trying to spread education , by designing the city of Agartala by contributing so much to other sectors of life and society but his name is being sought to be erased from memory ; we will not let this happen“, the prime minister had thundered in a huge rally at Sonamura on February 8. It is no wonder because the Marxists the world over believe that history began only with the publication of ‘Communist Manifesto’ in 1848 but what really was a matter of amazement was that the prime minister had done so much facts and figures researched before arriving to address a massive gathering in remote Tripura.
By Tapas Dey | February 20, 2018
Setting at rest all speculations, fear and restiveness the election to the sixty member Tripura assembly came off on February 18 as per schedule announced much earlier by the election commission. The most prominent feature of the election was the gross mismanagement in holding it as votes in many polling stations had to wait 6/7 hours before pressing the buttons on EVMs. What this proved was the lack of care and training on the part of poll officials and mishandling of EVMs by untrained or poorly trained poling personnel. This suffering of the voters was avoidable and except in states where people live by politics and elections this could have caused serious problems , making a mockery of the sanctity of the poll process. A fodder for thought and decision by the election commission !
Now begin the long wait for the outcome of the election on March 3 when the EVMs will be opened for counting of votes. What the locked up EVMs contain will remain a secret till March 3, calculations are on in full swing to forecast or predict the likely outcome. While this is a hazardous job this time , an attempt at analyzing the context of the election and the issues spawned by it can be made. In many ways the just-concluded election can be compared with the pre-assembly poll scenario in 1978 when the left front had made its debut in state power ,taking advantage of the confusion in opposition ranks and fragmentation of Congress votes into shares for then CFD and newly formed Janata Party. In the Loksabha polls of March 1977 Congress had won the East Tripura (ST) seat and narrowly lost the West Tripura seat but a chain of events beginning with the fall of the Congress government headed by late chief minister Sukhamay Sengupta because of defection and resultant confusion worsened by anti-incumbency had finally led to the left front victory in polls held on December 31 1977. The Congress vote shared by CFD and Janata Party but all three parties failed to open account though the TUJS had won four seats. There is another point of similarity with the 1988 assembly polls in terms of anti-incumbency , caused then by militant violence of TNV and this time by the ruling left front’s 25 yearold stint in power and obvious failure on multiple fronts.
But this time the new factor is BJP which , quite unlike Congress, is an organized political force which attachés considerable importance to its ‘Hindutwa’ ideology. Since the BJP led NDA under the leadership of Narendra Modi had assumed power in Delhi in 2014, the BJP’s countrywide growth has been truly spectacular with as many as 19 states already under the party’s rule . In Tripura the BJP had a token presence only as the party had secured barely 2% votes in the assembly polls of 2013 but in the post-Loksabha polls of 2014 the party’s growth has been phenomenal mainly because of the comprehensive failure of the Congress to perform its role as opposition and the bankruptcy of the leadership. A series of events other than BJP’s emergence in power in Centre had facilitated the party’s rise and growth in Tripura. The replacement of late aged and ailing Sudheendra Dasgupta as state BJP president by young Biplab Deb, posting of Sunil Deodhar of RSS as ‘Pravari’ in early 2016 and subsequent BJP victory in Assam and capture of power in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh had given a new impetus to the BJP. Apart from this, the party leadership and cadre had worked tirelessly boosting up the anti-incumbency against the ruling left front , capitalizing on the follies and foibles of the complacent left.
Even though the left front had won 50 seats in the 2013 assembly polls with a share of 52% plus,the leadership failed to see through the effects a series of decisions on the part of the state government would have on the electorate. Among many unpopular decisions, the gross deprivation of employees and pensioners, discrimination in giving due benefits to the poor rural and hilly masses, heavy job loss due to court intervention and corruption in the leadership and even in the cadre base down the line worsened the situation . Needless to say, the BJP gleefully lapped up the opportunity and improved its chances by allying with the aggressive IPFT.
What the left front leadership forgot was the stark fact that the 2013 assembly poll verdict did not truly reflect the realities of situation at the grassroot level and the groundswell of discontent among the people. Out of the 50 seats captured by the left front in 2013, more than twenty had been won by slender margins of between 1500-500 votes . This reality, worsened by heavy anti-incumbency and BJP’s long and still-growing strength , worked in favour of BJP and , despite the Congress’s presence in the poll arena , the party is likely to break new grounds in Tripura. Apart from this, the left front’s entire campaign was on a negative plank packed with traditional tirade against Centre and Modi but , at the same time, BJP made specific and concrete promises to the electorate some of which including the announcement on giving smart mobiles to the entire youth force look populist. But the voters accepted this , going by the reaction the promises evoked. After long four decades except a brief interregnum of five years of Congress-TUJS rule (1988-1993) Tripura seems to be in for a political change with expected exit of the left front from state power.
The writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
By TAPAS DEY
History and how it is shaped have been variously defined by scholars down the annals of history though an authentic consensus on the issue is still elusive. Marxists with their accent on collectivism attribute the making of history to masses, a huge anonymous entity that remain for them the eternal fountainhead of energy and inspiration . However, Karl Marx himself made a significant observation on history in his celebrated treatise ‘The eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon’.
According to Marx ‘men make their own history , but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already , given and transmitted from the past ‘. The observation continues to provoke lively and fierce debates as the rival school of scholars and historians ascribe the making of history to powerful individuals who with their personality and charisma can impose their will on the people and lead them.
Had there been no Jesus Christ , would Christianity have come into being or had there been no prophet Mohammed , would Islam have made such an impact on the course of world history ? These questions remain unanswered by proponents of Marxist concept of history. Be that as it may, we are here concerned with the fact that history has always been an embattled arena, subject to conflicting interpretations depending on ideological propensities of scholars.
This loaded preface may seem an exercise in redundancy in the context of what this article is all about but , nevertheless, a fine thread bonds the preface with the core of the article. Tripura , a political bastion of the Marxists over the past three decades, has been singularly indifferent to its history and heritage . Marxism, as it was been practiced since the days of Lenin in erstwhile Soviet Russia, has been a totalitarian ideology that seeks to control every aspect of human life and thinking . Even though the limitations of this ideology now lie exposed, those schooled in hardcore Marxist political culture in Tripura remain steeped in the hallucination that Tripura’s history had commenced from the inception of ‘Jana Shiksha Samity’, a literacy movement launched in 1945 by late Marxist stalwart and former chief minister Dasharath Deb .
Such aberrations may be tolerable in a democratic polity but at a time when the state prepares to celebrate the centenary of Tripura’s most enlightened king and greatest moderniser this Marxist intellectual baggage becomes unbearable.
Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya (1908-1947) had been born a year before his illustrious grandfather , king Radhakishore Manikya (1896-1909) died by an accident . Bir Bikram Kishore’s early life under the benign care of his father and king Birendra Kishore Manikya was not significantly different from his illustrious predecessors. Even in his boyhood Bir Bikram had shown promises of future greatness with his innovative ideas, drive and initiative and an inherited love for his subjects. Even according to contemporaries linked with the royal family Bir Bikram had exhibited his talents for ideas on architecture and engineering designs when still a boy. Even as the young prince was preparing himself for the challenges of the future, tragedy struck in the form of the death of king Birendra Kishore who had pioneered the tea industry in the state by allowing a number of British companies to go for planting and had also laid the foundation of a civil service besides cotinuing efforts to spread education among his subjects.
Shortly after monarchical responsibilities had thrust upon his broad shoulders in 1923 following the death of Birendra Kishore , young and dynamic Bir Bikram appeared in full glory to his subjects. The year was 1924 when Agartala was a very sparsely populated capital town exposed on all four sides to paddy fields , thickly wooded uplands , lakes and marshes . Depredations of large herds of elephants on human habitation and paddy fields were regular events and life used to be paralyzed after dusk. On one such night when people were shivering with fear in homes, the noise of a motor vehicle in which stood a gun-wielding , handsome man accompanied by followers with torches in hand . The man standing on the vehicle fired a few rounds from his gun and shouted to assure his subjects of protection from danger. The few people who had dared to come out of home immediately recognized their new and young king Bir Bikram kishore Manikya.
This small incident was however a significant pointer only as the king came into his own after his formal coronation in the year 1926. Having donned the mantle of king, Bir Bikram made a point of touring the length and breadth of his kingdom including his zamindari in Chakla Roshanabad encompassing the entire Comilla district and part of Noakhali and Sylhet districts of Bangladesh to see for himself the condition of his subjects as well as to make a proper assessment of the steps needed to be initiated to improve their lot. A series of measures followed and the results started showing in better services of the royal government to the people. The litany of major events that marked Bir Bikram’s eventful twenty four year rule (1923-1947) has figured and will continue to figure in academic histories of Tripura. There are certain highly positive aspects of his rule which this article will focus on .
The Marxist parties and their leaders in Tripura always criticize the state’s royal family for failure to promote and protect the interests of their tribal subjects. How valid and legitimate is the criticism? Traditionally the Manikya dynasty rulers of Tripura had encouraged settlement of non-tribals including professionals like priests, babers , washermen and farmers within the state since the days of Ratna Manikya (1464-1468) in order to introduce plainland cultivation which would yield higher revenue . The second purpose was to wean the tribal subjects away from primitive shifting cultivation as well as to pave the way for their development through close interaction and contact with relatively advanced non-tribals. This well-intentioned attempt taken at a time when historical realities were altogether different has been subjected to grossest possible misinterpretation.
As a far-sighted ruler and visionary king Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya had foreseen that unchecked migration and settlement of non-tribals within Tripura might spell trouble in future and the interests of the backward tribals needed to be protected. Keeping this in view he had set aside about large tracts of land in the hilly areas as reserved for his indigenous tribal subjects in three installments between 1931 and 1945. That the post-independence rulers of the state failed to protect the land from encroachment and interests of the tribals is an altogether different issue. He had sensed the upcoming changes in the political wind and took steps to democratize the administration. It is a recorded fact that it was at Bir Bikram’s initiative that the first elected municipal council had been formed at Agartala . In the pre-independence days king Bir Bikram was in an unenviable position: as a native king he could not antagonize the British rulers of the country but in his heart of hearts he was sympathetic to the freedom fighters . He therefore turned a blind eye to freedom fighters and revolutionaries taking refuge in his exclusive domain in Tripura but, nevertheless, Pandit Nehru in a letter had cast aspersion that the royal government was ill-treating freedom fighters. The charge was totally baseless and the king refuted it . Bir Bikram had realized well in advance that India would be partitioned and decided that his royal domain would join the Indian union and that is why he had singed the appointment of barrister Girija Shankar Guha as Tripura’s representative to the constituent assembly on April 28 1947 on nineteen days before he was to expire prematurely at the young age of thirty nine.
Apart from this, Bir Bikram was the first king of Tripura to go on long tours in Europe and America thrice during his lifetime between 1931 and 1939. In the course of these sojourns he came in contact with political heavyweights of the two continents including the king and queen of England , Adolf Hitler , Benito Mussolini ,The King of England , the King of Spain and Franklin Roosevelt in USA and was treated with great honour his position deserved . In the course of his tours he had gathered invaluable knowledge and experience which he subsequently put into effect while planning his capital Agartala with a brilliant lay-out. Even now the heart of Agartala remains beautifully planned though the king’s untimely death in 1947 and the emergence of gigantic socio-economic problems in the post-partition days considerably unsettled the plan .
King Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya’s name will perennially shine brightly in Tripura’s history because of his just and equitable treatment of all sections of his subjects. He had protected the interests of his tribal subjects by reserving but what he did for his non-tribal subjects is unique in history. In the wake of riots at Raipura near Dhaka in 1941 thousands of terror stricken Hindus sought shelter in Tripura . King Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya provided them not only relief in the form of food and cash doles but resettled them within his state . By this single act of magnanimity Bir Bikram earned universal respect and kudos across India . But his greatest achievement lay in his contribution to higher education in Tripura . Agartala’s Maharaja Bir Bikram College , built on sprawling and picturesque landscape in southeaster part of the town and personally designed by him, is a towering testimony to Bir Bikram’s commitment to education in the state.
King Bir Bikram was the torch-bearer of a great dynasty that had always extended liberal patronage to art and men of art . Following in the footsteps of his three illustrious ancestors from his great grand father Bir Chandra Manikya (1863-1896) Bir Bikram liberally helped poet Rabindranath Tagore and his institution ‘Shanti Niketan’ with annual financial grants including special sanctions for setting up a hospital and a library . The king had ordered proper observance of the poet’s eightieth birth day through statewide programmes and the entire state celebrated the birth day . Only a few days ahead of the poet’s death king Bir Bikram conferred the honorific title of ‘Bharat Bhaskar’ on Tagore in a special function held at Shanti Niketan and the poet also liberally acknowledged the debt of love and affection he had received from four successive kings of Tripura . In his centenary year king Bir Bikram will be remembered for all his great achievements but the people of the state who continue to reel under an ethnic divide will recall his magnanimous role as a great catalyst for unity among all sections of his subject.
Tapas Dey is a former MLA and a well known public figure and journalist from Tripura. The views in the article belong to the writer and TNT-The Northeast Today may not necessarily subscribe to the same views
By JAYANTA DEBNATH | February 28, 2018
Tripurainfo’s poll prediction methodology was first used 15 years ago and since then it has been conducting poll survey and prediction, especially in 2003, 2008 and 2013 Tripura assembly election respectively and they found the poll result was almost same as compared to the declared result. This year will be the 4th such opinion poll prediction and the survey methodology adopted will give some ideas regarding on which political party will bag how many seats and which political party will form the next government.
Following are their views on relative strengths and weaknesses of the two rival formations in the fray:
Left Front: The ruling Left Front led by the CPI (M) is deeply entrenched in the state in political and organizational terms, having active party units all over the nooks and corners of the state. This formidable organizational machinery which works throughout the year on a day-to-day basis is capable of warding off many an adverse factor. Quite naturally, the stakes being very high in the present election virtually a battle to retain the long communist bastion in the country-the organizational machinery of the CPI (M) has worked overtime over the past two years with an added sense of urgency. Apart from this, the performance of the left front government led by chief minister Manik Sarkar who is endowed with possibly the brightest image among all chief ministers in the country has been fair and efficient, especially in the sphere of implementation of schemes and projects for the welfare of the poorer sections of voters and depressed communities such as the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. What has further strengthened the CPI (M)’s position in the tribal dominated constituencies is the allotment of land among 1.25 lakh tribal families under the Right to Forest Act-2006. Since October 2016 the left front government has taken a series of steps to further expand its support base among the poorer and depressed sections of people.
Last but not the least is the general atmosphere of peace and harmony preserved and protected by the left front over the past twenty years under the leadership of Manik Sarkar who is the unquestioned leader of the Front and the Party who spearheaded the campaign for re-election and, needless to say, this has paid rich dividends to the party.
BJP-IPFT: What is Left Front’s strength is BJP-IPFT’s weakness in the state because-unlike the Left Front-BJP is chronically driven by dissensions and factional feuding and its organizational base is weak, to say the least. It’s alliance with IPFT, and their twipraland demand, is also questionable. But BJP’s strength lies in the party’s ability to mobilize its full strength in the campaign for assembly elections well in advance and the wave of support created by it. This time BJP has sprung two major surprises ; announcement of unemployment dole for youths and its highly populist manifesto which promises a lot to the employees, pensioners , students and poorer sections-pledges that the party will find difficult to implement.
Moreover, the commitments made in the manifesto have been validated by none other than Prime minister Shri Narendra Modi and union minister for finance , Shri Arun Jaitley. This has made an impact among the electorate and BJP-IPFT combine is expected to garner more votes from employees and unemployed youths but whether that will be enough to boost BJP’s position remains to be seen. What however may prove to be BJP’s Achilles Heel is the ingress into the party of deserters from Congress via Trinamool as none of them carries more than token credibility. Besides, minority votes-howsoever big or small-in many constituencies will work against the party exacerbated by the presence of a considerable number of non-tribal voters in nine constituencies allotted to the regional IPFT because of the aggressive ethno-centric politics of the latter and the unviable demand for separate Twipraland state. Given this position the BJP and its ally will find it difficult to realize their full potential in the poll outcome. Moreover, the share of votes howsoever big or small-may work against BJP’s expected gains despite the fact that the bankruptcy of Congress in Tripura has paved the way for BJP’s emergence as the prime opposition force in the state. But BJP’s powerful asset in the just concluded assembly polls was the clean image and charisma of the young state president Biplab Kumar Deb who had relentlessly toured the length and breadth of the state to make his party acceptable to all sections of the people. Appropriately backed by the state ‘Pravari’ Sunil Deodhar, BJP president Biplab Deb appears to have made himself acceptable to the electorate to a large extent and this helped his party’s campaign as well as bid for power.
Congress & Others: There were in the grim electoral battle, parties like Congress, Trinamool, INPT and ‘Amra Bangali’ who provided only comic interludes because of sheer inability and bankruptcy of their politics and failure to focus on pertinent issues. Having lost out almost its entire political base to the BJP, Congress put on display only a token presence in the ‘grand finale’ by mobilizing a few hired people to make a mockery of campaign while INPT, Trinamool and ‘Amra Bangali’ remained fringe elements devoid of any worthwhile support base . With the possible exception of Bijay Kumar Hrangkhawal in Ambassa constituency of Dhalai no candidate from the fringe parties could even make their presence felt. This was supposed to yield direct dividends to the BJP but how much it has actually helped the party will be clear only on the day of counting. The direct polarization witnessed in all elections to State Assembly earlier remained confined to Left Front and BJP this time. But the BJP’s alliance and seat adjustment with IPFT may actually prove to be a blunder for BJP because except for Takarjala the IPFT does not seem to have been able to make much of an impact owing to presence of a considerable number of non-tribal Bengali voters who are scared of the IPFT’s demand for ‘Twipraland’. But the issue will be sealed only on the day of counting on March 3.
Check out the offline survey conducted by Tripurainfo.com below:
The above analysis was undertaken by Tripurainfo.com, a leading media house based in Tripura. The analysis was sent to TNT-The Northeast Today by the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Tripurainfo.com, Mr. Jayanta Debnath. He can be reached at email@example.com