He had been an accomplished professional as a leading dental surgeon (MDS) who had positively impacted the hearts and minds of his patients with his extraordinary skill as surgeon. As the son of Tripura’s one of the richest men-late businessman Makhan Lal Saha-Professor Dr Manik Saha did not really need a job but his quest for knowledge and skill and urge to pursue an independent profession of his choice had led Dr (Professor) Manik Saha to become what he actually is-essentially a medical professional. But politics had always been his passion and even as a professional surgeon and Professor he had been a politically minded personality on the sidelines until he had joined the nationalist platform of BJP wherein he rose from the rank of chief of ‘Prishtha Pramukhs’ to state president in the year 2020. His rise up the hierarchical ladder in the party was nothing short of meteoric as he became the chief minister of the state in May 2022, having already won the election to Rajya Sabha.Dr Saha has completed two years of his tenure this month, having led the party to victory in the last assembly election in early 2023. He spoke to on his experiences and realization in a free-wheeling chat in his office on May 18:

1) Please share with us your experience and realization over the past two years as chief minister of the state.

Ans : You certainly know the background in which I had to don the mantle of the chief minister, having earlier worked as party’s chief of ‘Prishtha Pramukhs’, ‘Vistarak’ and then as state president. But my perception of the post of chief minister bestowed on me by the party is that I am the chief minister of the whole state and that of all sections of people regardless of caste, creed and racial identity. I try to work for all forty lakhs people of the state including the general sections cutting across religious faiths, SCs, STs and OBCs.My doors are open to all. It means lot of responsibilities, not only power, and above everything else I have been able to look at our state and its people from very close quarters and also from a different perspective. The state over the past few years has crossed new milestones in development, specially in the sphere of communication, infrastructure building, expansion of railway and air connectivity and also in providing benefits to people through various governmental schemes.

2) What are the problems and bottlenecks that you face in running the government as chief minister?

Book Review Ans : There are certain bottlenecks at the level of administration which I am trying to resolve but there are certain other problem areas like the health service. We do need another big hospital with all kinds of modern facilities and we are working to launch one such hospital equipped with the latest facilities. All the district and subdivisional hospitals are being upgraded in a phased manner. Besides, we are also setting up medical colleges, one dental college is already functional and I am trying to ensure that at least 10% of departmental budgets are set aside for maintaining cleanliness. Our aim is to showcase Tripura as a health hub by setting up Homeopathy and Ayurvedic colleges in addition to what has already been done. I have seen patients lying on floor in torrid heat during visits to over-crowded GBP hospital and I have instructed the concerned officials to expand facilities for accommodation as well as to install AC machines for comfort of patients in wards. Besides, lot of works need to be done in other spheres like agriculture, irrigation and in other sectors. But connectivity has considerably improved and shortly the ‘Maitree Setu’ in Sabroom and the Agartala-Akhaura railway line will be opened and this will help Tripura emerge as a gateway to southeast Asia also. But I must also mention that the recent performance of ‘Vidyajyoti’ schools is also a matter of concern and we will review the entire issue of ‘Vidyajyoti’ schools soon in a comprehensive manner.

3) What about the Panchayat election and the pending election to the Village Committees?

Ans: We have already set in motion the process of holding the Panchayat election which will probably come off in the month of July. At the same time the election to the Village Committees under the ADC areas will also come off soon because representative governance at the rural level is an urgent need. After the polls are over I may go on a visit to Bangladesh and meet the Prime Minister there but that requires permission from the union external affairs ministry which will have to be obtained. I do not foresee any problem in this regard.

4) What are the prospects of outside investment coming to Tripura? This holds the key to easing the burden of unemployment problem in the state.

Ans: Well, it is quite heartening that offers of investment are now pouring in but we are selective in this matter because our past experience is not good. But of late we have received a good offer from the TATA group of industries for modernization of the 19 industrial training institutes in our state. A delegation of executives from TATA came here and we held discussion over the issue. They have offered to restructure and reorient the ITIs in the state by introducing courses on artificial intelligence, e-learning, extra computer-related modern courses and other current technological subjects. The matter will be considered seriously and the TATA group may be assigned with the task of upgrading all the ITIs with latest courses, teaching methods, workshops and laboratories. We are also open to welcoming other investments like in the sphere of fruit processing and industries based on rubber and other natural resources available within our state.

5) What is the government’s position on the policy of ‘Vocal for Local’ as enunciated by the Prime Minister also? What are specific steps taken in this direction?

Book Review Ans : The ‘Vocal for Local’ as enunciated by our Prime minister is not only a matter of policy for us, it is our priority. I have made it clear to the officers that works that can be done locally should never be awarded to outside parties and this should yield results though certain bottlenecks always crop up. All these will be resolved and our government will keep on working on the principle of ‘Vocal for Local’. You may be surprised to know that when we had assumed power for the first time there were a only a few thousand self-help groups (SHGs) in the state but today the number of SHGs has gone up to 56000 and this is still on the rise . We are helping them grow furthrer, besides, the schemes of Centre and state for self-employment and eking out a living on own are being implemented. This will keep on gaining in momentum but certain vested interests try to create problems but they will be edged out. There is also a dearth of honest and dedicated officers but we are trying to resolve this problem which is more urgently needed in the police administration in view of the drug menace, human trafficking and crimes against women etc.

6) You have been campaigning a lot for the party in West Bengal. What is your assessment of the BJP’s prospects in West Bengal and at all India level?

Ans: Well, taking part in campaign is an essential party duty. Our prospect as repeatedly asserted by the Prime Minister is very good and I am sure we will reach the target set by the Prime Minister. As for West Bengal, I can say that the party has set a target of 32 seats out of a total of 42 and going by the response of the people to our meetings I am fairly sure that we may achieve the target. At least we will get many more seats than the 18 we had won in 2019 Loksabha election. We will definitely have Modiji as our next Prime Minister and the country will progress further under his inspiring leadership.