Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb is a gift to headline writers. It is not even two months since he took over from Manik Sarkar, the CPI(M) veteran who was Chief Minister for 20 years. Yet, Mr. Deb has held the spotlight on himself for one gaffe after another. He has said, in a literal manner, that the Internet and satellite communication were in use in ancient India, and that instances of their use could be referenced in the Mahabharata. Freely jumping across themes, he has compared the Indianness of the beauty of Miss Worlds. He has most recently said, very seriously, that civil engineers are better trained to be in the civil services compared to mechanical engineers as the former “know how to build society”. For some of these he has apologised — not for others. He has also made it a habit of doing ridiculous back-of-the-envelope calculations to ask the people of Tripura to, variously, consider how much richer they would be if they had kept a cow or sold paan. Mr. Deb is clearly revelling in his turn in the sun, as the BJP’s young talent come good in a vital ideological face-off by hollowing out the Congress’s State unit and humbling the CPI(M). In the days after the BJP swept the February Assembly election, winning 35 of the 60 seats on its own, with ally the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura bringing in another eight, it was said the victory in the State was as valuable to the party as its earlier achievement in Uttar Pradesh.

It is against this backdrop that Mr. Deb’s irrational remarks reveal the BJP to be completely out of its depth after its historic victory. On Mr. Sarkar’s watch, Tripura had moved up the development indices. According to the 2011 Census, with a literacy rate of about 87% it ranked fifth in India. Its sex ratio is a relatively respectable 960, and mortality rates for infants and children have been drastically reduced. On the flip side, Tripura’s good social health indices are not matched by those on the economic front — its per capita income has languished below the national average, its infrastructure facilities are poor and unemployment rate is extremely high. This is what Mr. Deb seeks to mock. Rather than make laughable references to technological prowess in a mythical age, he would do better to envisage and execute a firm plan to strengthen the State’s economic health. Rather than wade into needless controversies by talking about things such as how a ‘quintessential’ Indian woman looks like — which, given the manner the remark was couched, is something of an affront to Tripura’s ethnic diversity — he should be urged by his political bosses to let his performance, rather than his loose tongue, to do the talking. His advice to people to increase household savings instead of hankering after a government job reflects an incapacity to address the youth constituency that is seen to have voted the BJP to power on the desire for better jobs. All around, Mr. Deb is letting down his office and the people of Tripura.


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Printable version | Dec 2, 2021 4:27:39 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/headline-grabber/article23732325.ece

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