Hours after the resignation of Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb in a sudden political twist, the BJP appointed Dr Manik Saha as his replacement just a year ahead of assembly polls in the state. Mr Saha, who is a dentist by profession, was elected as a Rajya Sabha MP just last month and is also the Tripura state president of the BJP.
Being elected as Legislative Party Leader met the Hon'ble Governor at Raj Bhavan and submitted the claim to form the government with the letter of support from my party legislatures. pic.twitter.com/74GMKTv69H— Dr Manik Saha (@DrManikSaha2) May 14, 2022
After a hurriedly called BJP legislature party meeting, Mr Deb announced Mr Saha's name and said he would extend cooperation to the new Chief Minister. However, all did not go as planned and dramatic scenes were reported from the BJP headquarters in the state. Minister Ram Prasad Paul protested the proposal, which led to a heated argument among MLAs. Mr Paul also broke a few chairs before the situation was calmed. A video of him screaming and banging a chair on the ground has surfaced. "Main mar jaunga (I will die)," he can be heard screaming repeatedly.
Mr Paul reportedly wanted deputy chief minister Jishnu Dev Varma, a member of the erstwhile Tripura royal family, as the next Chief Minister of the state.
A section of BJP MLAs is miffed claiming they were not consulted and the central leadership made the decision arbitrarily.
Senior BJP leaders Bhupender Yadav and Vinod Tawde were observers for the election of the legislature party leader.
"I was a common worker of the party and will continue to be to be so," Mr Saha told reporters after being named the next Chief Minister.
The 69-year-old dental surgeon-turned-politician was on March 31 elected to Rajya Sabha in the lone seat of the BJP-ruled northeastern state.
Dr Saha, a professor and head of the department of the Tripura Medical College and BR Ambedkar Memorial Teaching Hospital in Agartala, joined the BJP in 2016. He is also the president of the Tripura Cricket Association.
In 2021, Mr Saha, a close associate of the outgoing Chief Minister Deb, became the president of the Tripura BJP Pradesh committee.
Mr Deb on Saturday said he has submitted his resignation to Governor SN Arya, adding that the party wants him to "work to strengthen the organisation". He made the announcement after meeting the Governor at the Raj Bhavan.
"Party is above all. I am a loyal worker of the BJP. I hope I have done justice to the responsibilities that were given to me -- whether it was BJP state president or Tripura Chief Minister. I have worked for the overall development of Tripura, and to ensure peace for the people of the state," Mr Deb told reporters.
"To strengthen the base of BJP in the state, I need to work on the grassroots level in various sectors. I should work as a common Karyakarta (party worker) rather than being in the position of Chief Minister to form BJP government again in the coming Assembly elections," he said.
Biplab Deb took to Twitter to congratulate his successor and said Tripura will prosper under PM Modi's "vision and leadership".
"Congratulations and best wishes to @DrManikSaha2 ji on being elected as the legislature party leader.
I believe under PM Shri @narendramodi Ji's vision and leadership Tripura will prosper," he tweeted.
Congratulations and best wishes to @DrManikSaha2 ji on being elected as the legislature party leader.— Biplab Kumar Deb (@BjpBiplab) May 14, 2022
I believe under PM Shri @narendramodi Ji's vision and leadership Tripura will prosper. pic.twitter.com/s0VF1FznWW
The party's arch-rival in the state, Trinamool Congress, launched a blistering attack on Mr Deb saying even the BJP bosses are "fed up with his incompetence". The Mamata Banerjee-led party has recently put a lot of energy to make an entry into the Bengali majority border state, leading to frequent clashes with the ruling BJP.
Mr Deb had gone to New Delhi on Thursday and met Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP president JP Nadda for a discussion on the party's affairs in the Northeastern state.
"The party wants me to work to strengthen the organisation," said the outgoing leader.
The resignation follows reports of infighting within the BJP's state unit.