Biplab Deb: Tripura's CM is a reactionary with a revolutionary name

Last Updated: Mon, Apr 30, 2018 16:56 hrs
PM Narendra Modi and Tripura CM Biplab Deb

BJP did well in the Tripura elections and ended over two decades of communist rule in the state; the party won 43 of 59 seats. The Chief Minister is Biplab Kumar Deb and has some eye raising opinions on various topics. He certainly has a right to express these opinions; perhaps he doesn’t deserve the microphone at all times.

In March, he was sworn in as the new chief minister of a state struggling with low employment and development. He won early praise for two particular actions he took – he transferred the case of murder of two journalists to the CBI and he set up a committee that would look to implement the implementation of the Seventh Pay Commission recommendations for state government employees.

He, 48, is a relatively young leader within the party. He was a RSS leader in the nation’s capital for more than a decade where he rose through their ranks. He trained under veteran RSS leaders Govindacharya and Krishna Gopal. He also worked as an assistant to Ganesh Singh, the BJP’s MP from Satna Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh. He then returned to Tripura to work for the BJP in the state in 2015. Subir Bhaumik, a veteran journalist and author, in a column stated some of the disadvantages of Biplab shortly after he became the Tripura chief minister –

He is seen as someone who will be run by remote control, so he has to demonstrate he can be his own man. And he has to keep away the Hindutva excess from Tripura because the state gave the BJP a chance not because it has much to do with tilakdhari politics but because they wanted a credible anti-Left alternative capable of delivering on the promise and potential of development”.

He contested the 2018 elections from the Banamalipur constituency in Agartala and won with a margin of over 9,500 votes. He was also mentored by BJP leader Sunil Deodhar who was the Prime Minister’s campaign manager in Varanasi in 2014. He was instrumental in the party’s victory in Tripura and appointed Biplab the state’s youngest ever party chief.

Now, just over a month into his tenure as chief minister, he has been summoned by the prime minister on Wednesday in the wake of bizarre comments he’s made over the past month. Take for example him openly portraying his lack of knowledge in basic geography; he stated that under his government the Chabimura rock carvings by the Gomti river will become like the “Amazon river basin in Africa”.

He then proclaimed that the internet was present during the time of the Mahabharata, long before it was invented in the West. At an event for computerization and reforms in the public distribution he stated, “It is this country where communication was possible because we then had technology, Internet was there; so was the satellite communication system. It is not that internet and media wasn’t available in the age of Mahabharata”. The Indian Express editorial pointed out the absurdity in his statements –

How else could Sanjaya live-tweet the battle to Dhritarashtra? To dispute this would be “narrow-minded”, Deb feels. Nevertheless, it is only human to question. Would it be narrow-minded to ask about the revolutionary drains of the Indus Valley, historically more real than the national epic…?

But it’s a hoot, and it’s being hooted at all over. Except from where it matters. Vinton Cerf and Tim Berners-Lee, fathers of the internet and the Web respectively, are strangely silent. But of course, it’s beneath their dignity to educate Biplab Deb”.

The state’s governor does not share the general public’s “skepticism” Deb’s claim of internet existing thousands of years ago in India. He chimed in and offered a defense of those ridiculous claims, because science and rational thought aren’t present in this way of thinking.

With his blinders and presumably ear plugs on, the newly appointed chief minister continued to let his thoughts flow sans filter. This time, he took aim at former Miss World winner Diana Hayden for some strange reason in a series of sexist remarks. He offered his opinion saying Aishwarya Rai was the one who deserved to be winner of the beauty pageant as she represents “Indian beauty”. He was rightfully criticized his sexist statements.

Fair to say, he’s not the first politician to make sexist remarks; like many others who have before him, he’s blind to the criticism he has received offering a clarifying statement of “not intending to hurt anyone” Neera Majundar, in a column for The Print, points out why women are often at the receiving end of out of touch politicians –

Deb condemned beauty contests, but his main thesis was comparing Rai’s beauty with than Hayden’s. The hypocrisy here is that Deb’s notions of what is beautiful, too, is affected by Western beauty standards—fair and Aryan”.

If elected representatives stuck to governing and empowering women without patronizing and patriarchal comments, it would probably be in tune with what their jobs actually require them to do”.

Not one to listen to criticism or pleads to keep quiet, his latest performance came on Sunday where he advised the young generation to not chase government jobs, but open paan shops and milk cows for a living instead. Remains to be seen if the prime ministers words for him will have any impact on his future behavior, maybe it’s the only person he’ll listen to and take seriously.

More columns by Varun Sukumar