Manik Saha new Tripura CM after dissent forces Biplab Deb to put in papers

BJP central leadership bowed to demands from the Tripura state unit and growing support base of Trinamool Congress and TIPRA Motha on Saturday when it directed chief minister Biplab Deb to put in his papers. Manik Saha, who was recently elected to the Rajya Sabha and is the Tripura BJP president, will be the next CM of the state that will go to polls in 2023.

This is the fourth case of BJP changing its CM in a state going to polls within a year. Gujarat, Karnataka and Uttarakhand CMs were replaced earlier. Deb, who was the Central leadership’s choice for CM in 2018 after BJP-IPFT alliance defeated the Manik Sarkar-led Left government, had courted controversies right from the beginning.

Internal dissension with a faction of the BJP meeting the party high command in Delhi to demand Deb’s ouster, the increasing political footprint of AITC and TIPRA Motha, differences with ally IPFT which represents a sizable tribal population were among a host of factors that went against the CM.

Deb had met BJP Chief JP Nadda and Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Delhi to discuss the developments in the state. Sources said there were some fresh issues with the chief minister and Shah was of the strong view that he should quit. Union Minister Bhupendra Yadav, BJP General Secretary Vinod Tawde as well as party state incharge Vinod Sonkar were sent to Agartala to facilitate the change.

Manik Saha, a dental surgeon, will be the next CM. The choice of this 69-year-old low-profile leader weeks after he was sent to the Upper House shows the change of guard in Tripura was precipitated by the recent developments.

Deb had always been in the thick of controversies. He also made absurd statements like there was internet during the age of Mahabharata and that educated people should open pan shops instead of looking for government jobs had embarrassed the BJP in the past.

BJP is also facing a tough challenge in the state that will have Assembly elections next year. Its key ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) is staring at a split and a section of party leaders are gravitating towards TIPRA Motha.

A senior BJP leader told ET, “Biplab style of functioning was questioned by many leaders. The party has tried to diffuse tension on many occasions. Failing to get a response from the party leadership, Sudip Roy Barman and Ashis Kumar Saha left BJP and joined the Congress in February. ”

BJP instituted cabinet expansion on August 31 last year by inducting three ministers even as the dissident MLAs and BJP leaders boycotted the swearing-in-ceremony.

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