Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and her enduring rival, the CPI(M), have a new but expected reason to fight for in Tripura — Dipa Karmakar.
India’s first gymnast at the Olympics, the 23-year-old Agartala native became the darling of a country starved of sports heroes when she finished fourth in the women’s vault in Rio. On the flipside, Dipa’s feat triggered a political one-upmanship that spun more than her Produnova vault.
Tripura’s four-term CPI(M) chief minister, Manik Sarkar, rolled out the welcome mat for Dipa when she returned home. He dashed to her parents and announced a reward of Rs 2.5 crore.
Just when it was thought the communists have scored big, arch-foe Trinamool plans to felicitate the diminutive Dipa in its own way. Sources said senior leader Mukul Roy will visit Agartala on September 3 and honour the gymnast at a public function.
Trinamool spokesperson Derek O’Brien has already prepared the ground, writing a fan mail in which he dropped a few words on “the conditions you’ve trained in”, thus hinting at the lack of sports infrastructure in the Red-ruled state.
“You are my - our - Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt rolled into one. They didn’t have to battle the odds and the nonsensical “system” that you did,” he wrote.
The felicitation comes on the heels of West Bengal chief minister Banerjee’s first public rally in Agartala where she gave a clarion call to oust the Left from the state.
The Trinamool is eyeing Tripura, another Bengali-speaking state, after ending 34 years of Left rule in West Bengal in 2011. The northeastern state is part of the party’s design to extend its national footprint, as it already has legislators in Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, and a parliamentarian from Jharkhand.