A comparison of assets and cash possessions of chief ministers of several states in India brings out a sharp contrast between the Tripura Left Front govt.’s Manik Sarkar on the one hand and the array of BJP chief ministers on the other. This symbolizes one key issue of the ongoing electoral battle in the tiny north-eastern state of Tripura: the fight between the elite versus the common man.
The 69-year-old CPI(M) leader who has headed the Tripura govt. for the last 20 years, donates his entire salary as CM to the CPI(M) state party fund. He and his wife (they have no children) live frugally on a reported whole-timer wage of Rs.5000 given by the Party, along with the pension drawn by his wife who retired from the central govt. service.
For the upcoming Tripura Assembly elections, Manik Sarkar declared his current bank balance as only Rs 2410, as on January 20, while submitting his nomination for Dhanpur constituency. In the affidavit submitted alongwith his nomination papers, Sarkar has declared his and his wife’s total assets as amounting to about Rs.26 lakh. This is far less than that of any other Chief Minister in the country.
On the other side, the assets owned by NDA or BJP Chief Ministers reveal their enormous financial status. According to the data taken from sworn affidavits submitted by the candidates during the elections in their respective states, the total assets owned by NDA and Congress Chief Ministers is compiled below:
Among NDA Chief Ministers, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, Andhra Pradesh CM, holds assets of about Rs.177 crores (as of 2014), and among all the current BJP Chief Ministers, the Arunachal Pradesh CM Pema Khandu holds the highest valued assets at more than Rs 122 crore, as in 2016. The total assets value is the sum of value of assets owned by the candidate, candidate’s spouse and dependents.
Two long serving chief ministers belonging to the BJP, Shivraj Singh Chauhan of MP and Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh own Rs.6 crore and Rs.5.6 crore respectively. Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani however leads the pack of rich BJP CMs having declared assets worth over Rs.9 crore. Punjab CM Amarinder Singh of the Congress had declared assets worth Rs.48 crore.
Manik Sarkar’s simple lifestyle and a commoner’s wealth level is typical of CPI (M)’s leadership in Tripura, both in Assembly and in the organization. Most of its leaders have emerged from very common backgrounds, like tribal farmers, middle class employees, school teachers etc. More pertinently, they have remained untouched by the usual trend of becoming richer and richer when in power. This is what perhaps helps the Left Front retain close touch with the people and has led to unflagging electoral support.
In the electoral battle, the BJP has been trying to attract the erstwhile royal scion of Tripura’s 800 year old Manikya dynasty, revealing the innate tendency to gravitate towards the rich. Its tribal partner IPTF reportedly split last year because its leader N.C.Debbarma was accused by other leaders of accepting Rs.2 lakh from BJP. This shows how the BJP is relying heavily on money power to lubricate its electoral machinery.
The data is taken from the sworn affidavits submitted by the candidates during their respective state elections. Tripura goes for polls on February 18 and the results will be declared on March 3.
With inputs from Association for Democratic Reforms