His detractors call Manik Sarkar the 'red Modi'. The comparison, many in the Tripura chief minister's assembly constituency feel, is unfair.
Bordering Bangladesh, Dhanpur is one of few constituencies in Tripura with a mixed population of Bengali Hindus, Bengali Muslims and
tribals. The hub of this seat is Dhanpur village, 80km south of state capital Agartala.
Patches of rubber plantations - symbolic of rural resurgence - flank the near-smooth Agartala-Dhanpur road. Tin-roofed houses up to the zero line marking the India-Bangladesh border have electricity, low voltage notwithstanding.
These, the LF government says, are signs of development in a landlocked state where essentials take ages to be transported from the 'mainland'. These signs have invited for Manik Sarkar comparisons with his Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi.
Like Modi, Sarkar alleges fiscal discrimination by the UPA government as a 'reward' for implementing Central pro-poor schemes. And like Modi, Sarkar the person is taller than Sarkar the party man seeking to lead the LF to victory.
But the comparisons end there. Unlike his saffron counterpart, Sarkar doesn't own a house, donates his salary (as CM) to his party, the CPM, and subsists on Rs. 5,000 the party pays him. His ex-Central government officer-wife's pension helps.
"Those who call him red Modi don't know the difference between the good and the not-so-good," says trader Abu Hussain, 27. Farmer Rabi Debbarma, 45, of an adjoining village agrees, hoping the 38,664 voters in Dhanpur will help Sarkar retain the seat for the fourth straight term.
But the contest isn't likely to be a cakewalk for Sarkar with Congress candidate Mohammed Shah Alam expecting to ride the anti-incumbency factor.
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