The BJP is yet to announce its face for the post of Chief Minister in Tripura. Among the obvious names the one that is being discussed in the corridors of politics is of the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment, Pratima Bhoumik.
News18 spoke to Pratima Bhoumik at her residence in Agartala, after her record shattering victory in Dhanpur constituency in the just concluded state elections. Surrounded by well-wishers, uncountable flower bouquets, trays of sweets and clad in a simple saree and pair of ‘hawai chappal’, the Union Minister composed herself in her office room for a candid and an exclusive conversation.
The Beginning of a New Journey
“My victory is all about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his development and progress model. In that past 50 years, Dhanpur was the strongest fort of the CPI (M). How to rule sans development? Dhanpur is an example. I contested Dhanpur in 1998 against the Goliath, but this time people of Dhanpur shattered the myth that it is the elite seat of the Left. They have shown their guts and grit and so this victory is theirs,” Bhoumik told News18.
Pratima Bhoumik overpowered her Left contender by a margin of around 3,500 votes, a first time for the BJP. However, it was for the first time that Manik Sarkar, the Left’s right man, did not contest in 25 years.
Can Dhanpur turn Satgachia in Bengal for CPI-M?
“I was the candidate of Dhanpur five year ago. I am the daughter of Dhanpur and know the people from close quarters. This is for the first time in 50 years that CPI (M) fielded a local candidate. We have scored in his area too. Dhanpur makes ministers and people know the trade. Earlier, Samar Chaudhury was the home and health minister from Dhanpur, Manik Sarkar was the Chief Minister and now they have chosen me as the union minister. There is something in the soil,” she explained.
Pratima Bhoumik: The Fighter
Bhoumik won the Dhanpur seat amassing 19,148 total votes with a staggering 42.25% vote share. She had contested the Tripura assembly elections from Dhanpur in 1998 and 2018 but lost against Manik Sarkar both times. However, this time, she managed to win from the same seat Dhanpur defeating CPI-M’s Kaushik Chanda with a 3,500-vote margin.
At least eight people were injured and 20 arrested for the post-poll violence in Tripura. Chief Minister Manik Saha, who visited the injured persons at GBP hospital on Friday, asked the police to take stern action against the miscreants in order to maintain peace and tranquility.
Most of the post-poll violence cases were reported from Sepahijala and Khowai districts.
“Contesting CPI-Mis a challenge not only for me but for the entire state. The challenge was even stiffer on the counting day and had the results been otherwise then hospitals in Tripura would have run out of space and fire service vehicles would have fallen short. In most of the states the violence is pre-polls and after the results everything turns normal. Here its different, the game begins after the election in Tripura,” she said.
The Minister in Saree and Slippers
Didi, as Bhoumik is addressed by people in the state, is famous for her saree and slipper attire. Born to a farmer family in a remote village of Tripura, Bhoumik saw a long journey to finally make it into the Union cabinet and is now a member of the state assembly.
“No, the ‘hawai chappal’ is not a stunt nor did I copy it from any one. I had my first ‘hawai chappal’ when I was promoted to Class 9. The slippers are comfortable and cheap. We are farmers and I am the eldest of the three siblings. We don’t have liquid money with us though there hasn’t been any dearth of food. The slippers keep me rooted and connected. Yes, Queen Ojha, BJP MP from Assam, is like mother to me and she keeps gifting me expensive sarees, but I prefer the simple cotton ones. This is who I am,” Bhoumik quipped.
The First Women CM of Tripura?
“I am a dedicated party worker, and it is only because of the party that I am sitting in front of you. I contested the elections under party’s instructions, and the party is my mother. So, one shouldn’t be speculating anything. I will do whatever the party will say,” she said.
Two years after being elected to Parliament in 2019 on a BJP ticket, Bhoumik, 54, took oath as the Union minister in July 2021, becoming the second permanent resident of the small north-eastern state to do so after Bijoya Chakraborty.
Nagaland made history this election as it got its first two women MLAs, with Hekani Jakhalu and Salhoutuonuo Kruse winning from the Dimapur-III and Western Angami.
In Tripura, 8 out of the 12 women candidates won the elections and among them Pratima Bhoumik stands the tallest. “The women in Tripura have shown the way. They have voted 3% more than men,” Bhoumik said.
The swearing-in-ceremony for Tripura CM will be held on March 8 where PM Modi will also be present. Incidentally, it will take place on the International Women’s Day.
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