MINUTES AFTER Biplab Deb was sworn in as the first BJP Chief Minister of Tripura on Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked across the stage to greet Manik Sarkar, the CPM leader who headed the state government for the last 20 years.
Later, Modi returned and walked Sarkar off the stage at the Assam Rifles grounds, all the while holding his hands. Right before Sarkar made his exit, Deb touched Sarkar’s feet, seeking his blessings. On the dais, the former chief minister was seated between the two veteran BJP leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.
As these images, capturing the political transition in the northeastern state, played out on stage, thousands of BJP supporters gathered below burst into cheers.
Sarkar, still a popular leader despite his party’s defeat after 25 years in power, had decided to attend the ceremony after being personally invited by Deb and BJP general secretary Ram Madhav. On Friday, he looked on as seven MLAs were sworn in, including two from the IPFT — its president N C Debbarma and general secretary Mevar Jamatia.
After the ceremony, the Prime Minister addressed a rally at the venue and called the Tripura elections “nothing short of historic”.
“There are some elections in India’s political history that are forever remembered. These handful of elections are discussed and analysed for years after they take place. This was one such election. Tripura’s election this year has been one of extreme importance in India’s democracy. And this is how Tripura’s election will go down in India’s history — as history having been created,’’ he said.
“Today, Diwali will be celebrated in Tripura once more. The people of Tripura can expect with new hope and renewed enthusiasm, Tripura’s march toward development,” said Modi.
Against the backdrop of CPM workers and offices being targeted in post-poll violence, Modi called for unity between the BJP and the Left. “For all those who voted for us, this is your government. For all those who did not vote for us, this is your government, too. The election in Tripura is over. All of you, irrespective of who you have voted for, are our people. We will endeavour to fulfill all your hopes… your problems are our responsibility and we hope to tackle each and every problem that you have,” he said.
Referring to the BJP’s reach in the northeast, Modi said, “We have governments in seven of the eight states — and at no time in the history of India after independence has the northeast been more integrated with the rest of the country… I am the only Prime Minister after independence who has actually visited the northeast at least 25 times. Bharat is for you, Bharat thinks about you and worries for you.’’
In a show of strength by the party, the ceremony was attended by seven BJP chief ministers — Gujarat’s Vijay Rupani, Rajasthan’s Vasundhara Raje, Madhya Pradesh’s Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chhattisgarh’s Raman Singh, Jharkhand’s Raghubar Das — and CMs of northeastern states, including Sarbananda Sonowal, Neiphiu Rio and N Biren.
Also in attendance were Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Social Justice Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot, Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan, and Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was one of BJP’s main leaders responsible for the party’s overwhelming victory this time.