| Manik Sarkar |
New Delhi, Aug. 7: Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar today drew praise from unexpected quarters.
BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP from Madhya Pradesh, Anil Madhav Dave, an RSS hardliner, termed Sarkar, a dyed-in-wool Marxist, a “model for any leader” during a discussion in Parliament on the working of the home ministry. Dave’s reference was to the veteran CPM leader’s simplicity and his deep belief in local culture.
“Manik Sarkar is a model for any leader,” Dave said, looking around for Left MPs only one of whom, P. Rajeev, was present.
Dave, an RSS member, and Sarkar the Marxist obviously stand on opposite poles in their individual ideologies but simplicity is a virtue many on both sides of the ideological divide carry through their lives. While Left MPs continue to lead simple lives in modest homes, many from the RSS also see simplicity and “swadeshi” as part of their life’s make-up.
“His (Sarkar’s) wife still travels in a rickshaw,” said Dave, extolling Sarkar’s simple lifestyle but quickly made a comparison with his own leader. “Just like our Prime Minister’s mother washes her own clothes,” added Dave, a Gujarati whose poll strategy in Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections was replicated by the BJP in Gujarat during the general election this year.
Such fulsome praise has been rare.
The four-time chief minister, known as the “poorest chief minister of India”, had declared a sum of Rs 1,080 as cash in hand while filing nomination for Dhanpur Assembly constituency last year and his bank balance stood at Rs 9,720 according to the affidavit. Visitors to Agartala often describe seeing Sarkar’s wife commuting by a rickshaw.
The core of Dave’s compliment, however, was not limited to Sarkar’s simplicity or political ideology but the chief minister’s encouragement to the learning of Kokborok, the indigenous language in the state. The BJP MP said there was a specific reason why he had mentioned Sarkar while discussing the official languages department in the home ministry.
The BJP MP said Sarkar’s encouragement to the use of Kokborok even in land records was an example of taking local culture and language down to the grassroots. He said Tripura’s example should be replicated by bringing Telugu, Malayalam, Odiya and other languages to the grassroots.
He said one should not get impressed by “fair skin and language”, a legacy left behind by the Raj.
Dave said he imagined the “tall leaders” of the Congress like Sardar Patel and Maulana Azad. In what would be seen as a relatively harmless faux pas, he even named Lala Har Dayal as part of the Congress leadership with mild protests from the Opposition benches. Har Dayal had founded the Gadar Party in 1913. Incidentally, CPM Rajya Sabha MP Ritabrata Banerjee had this week urged the government to build a memorial for Gadar Party revolutionaries.
Cultural nationalism has been the cornerstone of the RSS and BJP and Dave did not hide this in his initiation of the discussion.
During the discussion on the home ministry, which will be concluded on Monday, the Opposition trained its guns on the BJP for triggering communal violence across the country.
Congress MP from Uttar Pradesh, Pramod Tiwari, said it was curious that communal violence was flaring up in constituencies going for bypolls. Trinamul Congress’s Sukhendu Sekhar Roy did not name the BJP but said “communal forces” were inciting violence across many states.