Left Out of PM Narendra Modi's Bangladesh Tour, Tripura Chief Minister Calls it as 'Political Opportunism'

FILE PHOTO: Manik Sarkar

New Delhi:

The Agartala-Kolkata bus service cutting through Dhaka, flagged off by the Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh, is aimed at reducing distances between people and places.

But the move has created a huge gulf between the Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPI(M)-ruled Tripura and the Centre. Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was not invited and neither were the chief ministers of Assam and Meghalaya, all states who share their borders with Bangladesh.

 "That can be answered by the Prime Minister himself," Manik Sarkar told NDTV in an exclusive interview on not being invited to accompany to Bangladesh.

"He didn't invite us and its upto him to decide who will accompany him and who will not. Prime Minister can choose according to his political priority," he added.

Mr Sarkar, who has been a fourth term chief minister of Tripura since 1998, said if all the North East Chief Ministers whose states share their boundaries with Bangladesh, had accompanied Prime Minister Modi, "it would have had a positive impact."

Mr Sarkar and other Congress Chief Ministers had accompanied Dr Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh in 2011. At that time, Mamata Banerjie had dropped out citing her opposition to the Teesta water sharing pact and the Land Boundary Agreement. But this time, Mamata Banerjee is the only chief minister to accompany Prime Minister.

Calling it as "political opportunism," the usually mild mannered Mr Sarkar was quite scathing in his criticism. "They have now become interdependent. In Parliament, Mr Modi is facing problems particularly with regard to passing bills in Rajya Sabha and Mamata is facing rough weather because of Saradha scam. People have started talking about this,"said Mr Sarkar, adding,"This is not how you have cooperative federalism."

Mr Sarkar, whose government had recently withdrawn the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) from Tripura, discussed the impact the recent militant attack in Manipur is likely to have on other north-eastern states with regard to AFPSA withdrawal, a long standing demand of civil rights activists.

When asked if the gruesome attack on the Indian Army was a setback for other North Eastern states to think of withdrawing AFSPA, Mr Sarkar whose government has successfully brought down militancy in Tripura said, "I don't think so. Look at what measures we have adopted to combat extremism. We have conducted ideological campaign, political campaign and we have taken administrative measures to go all out for development particularly tribal areas. It is not good enough to depend only on the military might and security forces."

He advised states to adopt multi-pronged approach but made it clear there's no room for "complacency" in dealing with militants."We have done level best to strengthen our security forces," he said.