Even as the Left ceded power to the Bharatiya Janata Party in Tripura after 20 years, voters in the Dhanpur constituency have convincingly sent their four-time legislator Manik Sarkar to the state Assembly yet again. For the first time in five Assembly elections, the man who has long been called India’s poorest chief minister will be part of the House without control over the government in Agartala.
In the election results announced on Saturday, Sarkar bagged more than half of all votes in Dhanpur for the fifth time running – his vote share was 54.6%. He had got 57% of the vote share in 2013 and 53% in 2008.
Sarkar’s win notwithstanding, the BJP’s victory march in the state found its reflection in Dhanpur, as well. The party, whose best vote share until now in Sarkar’s stronghold was a meagre 5%, rode on its nationwide wave to put up a strong fight this time. Its vote share swelled to as much as 41.2%, lifting it to the second place. Congress, the usual second-spot-holder, managed no more than 538 votes – and its candidate is staring at the prospect of losing her deposit.
With the Left now limited to only one state, BJP leader and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has already suggested that Sarkar take shelter in West Bengal or Kerala, or even Bangladesh. However, the public perception of Sarkar’s austerity remains, as Congress leader Ahmed Patel took exception and called Sarkar “an honest person”.
In a list of 31 chief ministers that had 25 crorepatis, the nonprofit Association for Democratic Reforms recently found that Sarkar had total assets worth just a little over Rs 26 lakh. While filing his nomination before the polls, he declared cash worth just Rs 1,520 and a bank balance of Rs 2,410 – much lesser than the Rs 9,720 he had before the 2013 elections. As anti-incumbency got the better of his government this time, the 69-year-old is one of few from the Communist Party of India (Marxist) who retained their seats.