Mr Subal Bhowmik, Congress MLA from Sonamura, Tripura

“CPI (M)-sponsored insurgency has hit tourism and infrastructure projects”

If we get the gender out of the way, Mr Subal Bhowmik is to politics in Tripura what Mamata Banerjee is to West Bengal politics. There are similarities in the determined styles and thought processes of the two. Mr Bhowmik wants to achieve in Tripura what Ms Banerjee could do in West Bengal—storm a very strong Red citadel, and put the CPI (M) Government out of power. As the Congress party’s chief whip in the Tripura Assembly, Mr Bhowmik is working 24 / 7 to ensure that his party is able to defeat the CPI(M) Government in the assembly elections in late 2012. Tripura has been under Marxist rule for the past 19 years making it the only state in India where the CPI(M) is currently in power. In a freewheeling interview with India Empire’s Anjay Sinha, Mr Bhowmik speaks about the main issues that need to be seriously addressed
What is wrong with Tripura?
There is nothing right with our state. Every organ of the state machinery is plagued with corruption. Our GDP is just 7.54 per cent, which is lower than Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur and Meghalaya.

What are the reasons for low GDP?
The state government has not allowed any heavy industry to come up in the past 19 years. There are a handful of small-scale units. Of the 38 lakh population, 67 per cent is living below the poverty line. We have 6 lakh unemployed youth in the state as there are no employment generation schemes.

The Centre has been focusing more on the northeastern states. Then why such problems in Tripura?
Our state generates just 10 per cent of the total revenue. The rest is funded by the Centre itself. But there is a huge misappropriation of funds. That’s why the CPI(M) has been able to set up about 1,500 party offices across the state during the past 19 years. These offices have come up on government money. This should be probed by none other than the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Our state generates just 10 per cent of the total revenue. The rest is funded by the Centre itself. But there is a huge misappropriation of funds. That’s why the CPI(M) has been able to set up about 1,500 party offices across the state during the past 19 years

What role has the state unit of the Congress played to highlight such irregularities?
Out of an assembly strength of 60 MLAs our party has 10. We have been raising these issues in the assembly. But CPI(M) is a organized cadre-based party. Whenever we have raised these issues in the public domain, our workers have been systematically targeted by the law enforcement agencies. There is total lawlessness in the state.

Let’s talk about other issues. Agriculture contributes towards 42 per cent of employment. What steps have been taken to improve on the agriculture scenario in the state ?
Farmers are in a very bad shape in the state. Neither we have proper irrigation facilities, nor have we been able to provide them with cost-effective fertilizers. This is all because the Government has no vision for agricultural growth.

Your party was also in power from 1972 to 1977 and 1988 to 1993. What were your achievements?
We created 37,000 employments between 1988 and 1993. When we took over, 61 per cent people were living below the poverty line. But we brought it down to 58 per cent. Now, there are 67 per cent people living below the poverty line.

You have hogged the newspaper headlines during the past 2 months. Can you tell us the main reasons?
I held at least 150 public meetings during the past two months. My aim is to expose the misdeeds of the government. That’s why I’ve been able to receive such a massive public support.

You had launched the Simanta Bhumi Suraksha Committee. What was the purpose of this committee?
While fencing the 856-Km Indo-Bangladesh border, about 8,500 people were rendered homeless. The committee was launched to rehabilitate these homeless people. When fencing was done, it was done 140 metres inside the Indian soil. We wanted the fencing to be done on the zero point.

You have declared April 17 as the protest day. Why?
Two women were recently raped in our state. But the government wanted to cover it up. Now, two sons of two CPI(M) leaders have been arrested. One CPI(M) minister even tried to bribe the rape victims. We are protesting against this minister and want strict action against him.

Some party workers call you Mamata Banerjee of Tripura. Why ?
I do not know this. But one thing is clear. The way Trinamool Congress and our party wiped out Left government in West Bengal, we will do the same in Tripura in the coming elections.

How are you going to achieve this?
Our state has earned a very bad name due to bad law and order machinery. Our conviction rate is just 11.7 per cent. We top the list when it comes to crime against women. The CPI (M)-sponsored insurgency has hit the tourism industry. There are no foreign investors ready to invest in our state. We have no infrastructure projects. More than 400 distress pockets in tribal areas are without electricity, proper roads, primary schools and primary healthcare centres. Our natural resources are untapped. Even the ONGC is not allowed to function freely. We will raise all these issues in the coming elections. Also, we will project our vision document. And we are sure that people of Tripura will support us in a big way.

You have always been raising the issue of fake voters. How are you going to tackle it?
This time, about 85 per cent voters list will be fair. We have worked very hard on this issue. But we need to be more vigilant till elections are over.

If your party wins the poll, what is the first announcement you will make to the people of your state?
We will immediately announce creation of 50,000 jobs in a period of six months. We will take strict action against the corrupt and ensure better law and order in the entire state.

April 2012

click here to enlarge

 >> Cover Story
 >> From the Editor