Agartala: In a surprise move ahead of the 2023 assembly election, the BJP made Rajya Sabha MP Manik Saha the new chief minister of Tripura, replacing Biplab Kumar Deb who resigned earlier Saturday.
Saha, the BJP’s state president, would be sworn in as the chief minister Sunday.
He was elected the legislature party leader at a meeting at the CM’s official residence soon after a crestfallen Deb tendered his resignation to Governor SN Arya.
As Deb proposed the 69-year-old Saha’s name in the meeting, minister Ram Prasad Paul protested, which led to a scuffle among MLAs. Paul also broke a few chairs before the situation was calmed, sources said.
Paul wanted deputy chief minister Jishnu Dev Varma, a member of the erstwhile Tripura royal family, as the next chief minister of the state, they said.
Opposition parties claimed that the BJP replaced the chief minister as Deb failed to fulfil the promises of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but the move will not succeed in the assembly election.
Senior BJP leaders Bhupender Yadav and Vinod Tawde were observers for the election of the legislature party leader.
“I was a common worker of the party and will continue to be so,” Saha told reporters after being named the next chief minister.
Deb, 50, resigned a day after meeting Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda in New Delhi.
Nadda later congratulated Saha and expressed confidence that he will lead the state towards progress and development
“Party is above all. I am a loyal worker of the BJP. I hope I have done justice to the responsibilities that were given to me — whether it was as BJP state president or as Tripura chief minister. I have worked for the overall development of Tripura, and to ensure peace for the people of the state,” Deb said after resigning.
During his tenure as Tripura CM, Deb had made headlines often because of his controversial statements – from hinting at the existence of the Internet during the Mahabharata era to questioning whether Diana Hayden deserved to win the Miss World title and whether she or Aishwarya Rai symbolised true ‘Indian beauty’.
Congratulating Saha on being elected the new legislative party leader, Deb said he hopes the new CM will complete the works undertaken by him.
“The 2023 election is coming, and the party wants a responsible organiser to take charge of the affairs here. A government can only be formed if the organisation is strong,” he said, explaining the party’s decision to give him organisational responsibilities.
Deb was appointed the chief minister after the BJP stormed to power in 2018, ending 25 years of Left Front rule in the North-eastern state.
The BJP would return to power after winning the 2023 assembly elections with more seats than it had bagged last time, he said.
To a question on the reason behind the sudden change of guard at the helm in the state, he said that in the BJP, the party president decides the role of leaders.
The BJP is not like Left parties that announce it before taking any major decision, Deb said.
Asked about the dissension in the meeting that elected Saha as the legislative party chief, he said that one or two members might have reservations but the organisation is above everything. “The BJP is capable of handling such issues.”
On becoming emotional after tendering his resignation as the chief minister, “We are Indians… Naturally, emotion touches me.”
Reacting to the development, CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Chowdhury “The Biplab Kumar Deb government could not fulfil a single promise given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then BJP president Amit Shah. That’s why the BJP central leadership replaced him.”
State Congress president Birajit Sinha said changing the CM before the Assembly election is nothing but an attempt of the BJP to befool the people of the state.
“The change of guard just ahead of the Assembly election seems to be a face-saving exercise by the BJP. But it will not serve any purpose as the party will be defeated,” Trinamool Congress president Subal Bhowmik said.
Deb’s tenure was marked by “attacks” on opposition activists and “murder of democracy” in Tripura, the TMC’s central leaders said in Kolkata.