POLITICS

CM for 20 years, Manik Sarkar couldn’t even build himself a house

Hailed by even his bitterest rivals for being impeccably honest, former Tripura CM Manik Sarkar doesn’t even own a house or land. He doesn’t carry a cell phone and has never filed a tax return

Photo by Saikat Paul/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Ashutosh Sharma

With only ₹2,410 in his bank account representing his savings after being the Chief Minister of Tripura from March 1998 to March 2018, Manik Sarkar has now moved to a two-room flat in the CPI (M) party headquarters.

Sarkar vacated the official residence of the Tripura Chief Minister on Marx-Engels Sarani in Agartala on Thursday, while he was still the CM of the interim caretaker government in the state. Even though he managed to win Dhanpur constituency seat in the recent Tripura Assembly elections that saw CPI(M) defeat, he didn’t take up accommodation in the MLA hostel.

After becoming the state’s CM for the first time in 1998, Sarkar eventually became the longest serving CM of the state. The 69-year-old CPI(M) leader used to donate his salary to the party and would get ₹5,000 from party as subsistence allowance. Sarkar, according to an election affidavit submitted by him while filing his nomination papers in January, has only ₹2,410 in his only bank account in SBI Agartala branch. Curiously, his bank balance stood at ₹9,720, as per the election affidavit filed by him in 2013. Sarkar never filed any income tax return in his life because his income never crossed the threshold limit for filing returns, and doesn’t have any cultivable or homestead land. Curiously, he doesn’t carry a cell phone and abstains from social media and doesn’t have any email account.

According to Sarkar’s affidavit, his wife Panchali Bhattacharya, a retired Central government employee, has ₹20,140 in cash and ₹1,24,101 and ₹86,473.78 in two bank accounts. She has three fixed deposits of ₹2 lakh, ₹5 lakh and ₹2.25 lakh, besides 20 grams of jewellery.

Bhattacharya inherited 888.35 sq.ft of land and has invested ₹15 lakh for construction there. The current value of the land is ₹21 lakh. She owns a small flat in the Krishnanagar area which is currently home to her sisters.

Sarkar has always credited his party for “teaching” him to be honest and transparent and to make do with the basic minimum needs. “When I joined the party, I had to take a vow of simple living. I had to sign a pledge to work for the people and not for my own interest. I am happy with what I have,” he said in an interview to rediff.com.

Hailed by even his most bitter ideological rivals for being impeccably honest, Sarkar was widely described as “the poorest Chief Minister”. BJP leader Ram Madhav in an unusual gesture visited Tripura's CPI(M) office on Friday to invite Sarkar to the swearing ceremony on Saturday.

New CM Biplab Kumar Deb—who touched the feet of his predecessor and sought his blessings on Monday, told media that the former CM, is entitled to “good government accommodation” and other “protocol amenities”.

Besides Sarkar, there are around six more MLAs, including former Transport minister Manik Dey, belonging to the Left Front who don’t have their own houses. Some of them are planning to return to their villages, while others are likely to shift in the MLA hostel.

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