Updated: May 23, 2022 2:09:29 am
A week after Biplab Kumar Deb stepped down as Chief Minister of Tripura, making way for Manik Saha, state Law Minister Ratan Lal Nath stirred the still simmering political pot by comparing the former CM with Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda and Albert Einstein, among others.
Speaking at an event at Kamalpur, 93 km from the Agartala, on Friday, Nath, who is known to be a close associate of Deb since before the BJP came to power in Tripura in 2018, said, “Of the 50 years of my political career, I’ve been MLA for 29 years, been in politics for 20 more. I’ve seen everyone from Sachindra Lal Singh (first CM of Tripura)… I have seen them all… Biplab Deb is what you can call the people’s leader. He is an exception. He has given the state a new direction, a new dream,” Nath said.
And then, there was more: “There is a reason why people are born where they are born… for example, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Vivekananda in our country or Einstein… not everyone is born everywhere. It’s good for Tripura that Biplab Kumar Deb was born here.”
While the clearly hyperbolic remarks raised eyebrows considering the sudden removal of Deb as CM hasn’t gone down well with a number of BJP leaders and workers, the party leadership has so far been guarded in its response to Nath’s comments.
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When asked for his reaction, Chief Minister Saha said on Saturday, “Of course, there is no scope to disregard Biplab Deb’s contributions. We recognise it. He’s working now as well. He (Nath) has said what he said. I think it would be proper to ask him about it.”
Several Tripura BJP leaders, still to come to terms with the suddenness of Deb’s removal, said his contribution towards bringing the BJP to power in Tripura can’t be ignored.
“He was instrumental in ending 25 years of Left Front rule,” said a leader while refusing to comment on why Nath compared Deb to Tagore, Gandhi and Vivekananda.
Sources said Nath’s comments could be aimed at sending out a larger message to the central leadership of the party. While the BJP leadership has insisted that Deb was replaced as CM to allow him more time to work for the organisation and prepare for the 2023 polls, the reason for his removal is still contested, especially since Deb hasn’t yet been given any political charge.
“The hurry with which he had to resign would imply there is a lot of pressing work in the party that he has to do. How is it then that he hasn’t been given any responsibility even a week after his resignation?” said a source.
Sources said Nath, 71, was probably trying to build a hyper-real narrative to boost Deb’s political prospects given that the former CM doesn’t have a clear role yet.
They also said Nath’s flattery was probably aimed at exerting pressure on the new CM, who is yet to find his feet in an administration built by Deb.
Opposition parties have been quick to react to Nath’s comments.
Sudip Roy Barman, who after stints in the Trinamool Congress and BJP is now back in the Congress, termed Nath’s comments “insane”.
“There is a limit to insanity. The person who has said this should be treated by a good doctor,” said Barman, who left the BJP over differences with Deb.
CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Chaudhary said Deb’s tenure as CM was replete with political violence, economic crises, and shortage of work and food in villages.
“To compare him with Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda or Einstein is ridiculous… No gentleman with basic knowledge can make such comments. He (Nath) is a minister, that too in charge of education and law. He must seek an apology in public for insulting great men like Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Swami Vivekananda, Mandela and others,” Chaudhary said.
Trinamool Congress leaders said Nath’s comments were mere “flattery” and far removed from the public’s perception of the former CM’s tenure.
Amid the criticism, Nath, however, has stood his ground and said he didn’t need to take lessons from people who don’t agree with the great leaders of India.
“Biplab Deb taught people to dream and those dreams have started coming true,” Nath said.
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