By Biswendu Bhattacharjee
Agartala: In his hitherto brief journey in active politics including 50 months as Chief Minister of Tripura, Biplab Kumar Deb has grabbed eyeballs for both the right and wrong reasons.
Besides triggering controversies with his frequent gaffes, Deb has been recognised for his contribution to changing the way of governance and policies, without caring much about their political fallout.
Deb brought changes in the government recruitment policies which are mainly driven by merit. The decision to evaluate the physical and mental condition of government employees after 50 years of age was a gutsy decision. He introduced the CBSE syllabus at the school level and he was the one who started “Janata Darbar” at the Secretariat to get direct feedback from the people.
The tenure of Deb is also remembered for his political courtesy on the day he was elected as Chief Minister and successor of veteran communist leader Manik Sarkar. Adhering to the traditional Indian values, he offered a ‘pranam’ (showing respect to elders by touching their feet) to the CPI (M) stalwart Khagen Das. He also sought the blessings of his predecessor Sarkar by touching his feet.
Born in Tripura’s ancient town Udaipur on November 25, 1971, Biplab had his schooling there and was deeply influenced by RSS ideology and the work of a ‘Pracharak’ in the late 80’s. As a youngster, Deb had made an abortive bid to join the RSS but his parents stood in the way. But, finally having had schooling, Deb left for Delhi determined to work for RSS.
He had no place to stay and loitered around the RSS office before being picked up by prominent men of the world’s largest voluntary organisation. His grooming began under the benign and scholarly care of RSS stalwart K N Gobindacharya who initiated him into the world of history, economics and important administrative matters having a direct bearing on politics, Biplab once recalled.
Deb had to interrupt his scholarly pursuits to complete his graduation fromTripura University and to be close to his parents for a while. But destiny guided him to an elevated circle of ‘Sangh’ and BJP and during the rule of the first NDA government under the inspiring leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee; Deb was attached to party MPs and ministers for helping them as well as for completing the process of his practical learning.
A fitness-obsessed man, Biplab was a regular visitor to a gym to keep up and increase his level of fitness and it was in this unlikely place that he met Niti Vidrohi, a young girl of high merit. It was love at first sight and they got married after Niti had joined the State Bank of India as an officer.
It was towards the end of 2015 that the RSS and BJP top brass decided to depute Deb to Tripura, where the Communist=led Left Front was deeply entrenched. Deb started moving across the length and breadth of the state tirelessly and within a short while he gained popularity, which seemed to challenge even that of then veteran Chief Minister Manik Sarkar.
Deb stirred a big controversy in April 2018; claiming that the internet and satellite existed since the Mahabharata era followed by a remark on the Civil Service Examination, stating that only civil engineers should sit for civil service exams.
He was criticised for his comment that the duck produces more oxygen when swimming in the water bodies. Instead of looking for a government job, Deb had advised the unemployed to rear cows and open a betel-leaf shop.
The party was left red-faced when Deb in a gathering said Rabindranath Tagore returned his Nobel Prize in protest against the Jallianwala Bagh Incident. On November 2019, Deb claimed, “The Mughals intended to bomb the culture of Tripura.”
He also stated that international beauty pageants were a farce, and claimed that the decision to award Miss World and Miss Universe titles to Indian women for five years in a row was market-driven rather than based on the beauty of the participants while questioning the rationale behind awarding Diana Hayden the Miss World crown.