Agartala: Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, set to assume office for a fourth time after leading the Left to a huge electoral win, is the son of a tailor who still washes his own clothes.
An unassuming man, the 64-year-old got down to work no soon than he was declared the winner from Dhanpur constituency. He met CPI-M leaders and activists at Sonamura, 60 km from here.
On Thursday, the Communist Party of India-Marxist bagged 49 of the 60 seats while its ally Communist Party of India won one seat. The Congress finished with only 10 seats.
It was the best result for the Left since 1978 when the legendary Nripen Chakraborty-led CPI-M swept 56 seats. This time, Sarkar helped the Left Front increase its 2008 tally by one seat.
Sarkar has become almost legendary for his frugal lifestyle and, in the run-up to the state elections, his income and wealth disclosures only served to underline that point. The chief minister does not have any fixed deposits to his name and owns an ancestral house in his village. He also declared a bank balance of Rs 10,000. At the last state elections five years ago, his bank balance was Rs 16,000. That makes Sarkar perhaps the only politician in the country whose bank balance has, in fact, declined while in power.
Undoubtedly the "poorest" chief minister in India, Sarkar, according to documents filed with the Election Commission, has Rs.10,800 in cash.
In line with CPI-M rules, Sarkar gives away his salary to the party, which pays him Rs.5,000 a month.
He is probably India's only chief minister who does not own a home, car or bank balance worth mentioning.
He does not even have a mobile phone and has never used the red beacon on his official car.
Sarkar's wife Panchali Bhattacharjee, 62, who retired as a government employee in 2010, has Rs.22,015 in cash and Rs.24,52,395 as savings. The couple has no children.
She said her husband still washed his clothes every morning.
"My wife's pension can sustain us. My expenses are a small pot of snuff and a cigarette a day," Sarkar told IANS.
After the death of his mother in 2009, Sarkar inherited a small house worth Rs.200,000 in Agartala. He donated it to his younger sister.
Sarkar's father Amulya was a tailor and mother Anjali was an employee of the state health department.
Sarkar joined politics in 1967 and was elected secretary of the CPI-M's Tripura unit in 1993.
A bachelor of commerce from Calcutta University, Sarkar was first elected to the Tripura assembly in a 1980 by-poll and again in 1983.
He is the second in the northeast to be the chief minister for 15 years or more after Gegong Apang of the Congress who ruled Arunachal Pradesh for 24 years over two periods (1980-99 and 2003-07).
On Thursday, Sarkar defeated his Congress rival Shah Alam by 6,017 votes. In 2008, Sarkar's winning margin was 2,918.
"This is a verdict in favour of development, peace and stability besides good governance," Sarkar told reporters.
According to a CPI-M leader, Left Front leaders will meet here Friday and decide when to form a new government.