Septuagenarian dental surgeon-turned-politician Manik Saha on Wednesday took oath as the Chief Minister, days after BJP-IPFT alliance retained power in Tripura for the second straight term by winning 32 seats in the 60-member state assembly, for which elections were held on February 16.
Along with the 70-year-old Saha, eight other legislators, including a woman, assumed office as cabinet ministers against the total ministerial strength of 12.
Governor Satyadeo Narain Arya administered the oath and secrecy to the Chief Minister and other ministers – Ratan Lal Nath, Pranajit Singh Roy, Santana Chakma, Sushanta Chowdhury, Tinku Roy, Bikash Debbarma, Sudhangshu Das, Sukla Charan Noatia.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President J.P. Nadda, Chief Ministers Himanta Biswa Sarma (Assam), N. Biren Singh (Manipur), Pema Khandu (Arunachal Pradesh), Prem Singh Tamang (Sikkim) and a host of dignitaries were in attendance at the swearing-in ceremony held at the Swami Vivekananda Maidan.
Among the ministers, who took oath on Wednesday, four are new faces — Tinku Roy, Bikash Debbarma, Sudhangshu Das, Sukla Charan Noatia – and Santana Chakma, the only woman minister, who was also the minister in the first BJP government.
Noatia, the lone MLA of the BJP ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), was inducted in the council of ministry.
Three tribal MLAs, including Noatia, were given ministerial berths in the Manik Saha-led cabinet. Three ministerial berths remained vacant as the BJP has been approaching tribal based Tipra Motha Party (TMP) to join the BJP-led government.
Four ministers of the first BJP-led government – Ram Prasad Paul, Bhagaban Das, Manoj Kanti Deb and Rampada Jamatia – did not find place in the second saffron party-led government.
Political observers earlier felt that the Union Minister of State for Social Justice and Empowerment Pratima Bhowmik, who was elected from the Dhanpur assembly constituency, would find an important place in the Manik Saha-led cabinet, but it was not done yet though three ministerial berths remained vacant.
Opposition Congress and the CPI-M-led Left parties boycotted the swearing-in-ceremony alleging the state wide “unprecedented reign of terror unleashed by the BJP supporters and goons” since the announcements of assembly elections results on March 2.
In the February 16 Assembly polls, the BJP won 32 seats, one more than the magic figure of 31 in the 60-member Assembly, while its ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura got one.
Saha was re-elected from the Town Bordowali seat for the second time after defeating his nearest Congress opponent Ashish Kumar Saha by a margin of 1,257 votes. Manik Saha was first elected to the state Assembly in the by-poll held in June last year by defeating Ashish Kumar Saha by a margin of 6,104 votes.
Saha, who was also the state unit chief of the BJP and Rajya Sabha member for a brief period, took oath as the chief minister last year on May 15, a day after former chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb resigned from the top post.
The BJP, which first came to power in 2018 assembly polls after thrashing the CPI-M-led Left Front after 25 years (1993-2018), retained power in Tripura for the second straight term in the recent polls.
The tribal-based Tipra Motha Party (TMP), which for the first time contested 42 seats on its own, emerged as the second largest party by securing 13 seats. The CPI-M won 11 seats while the Congress bagged three.
The CPI-M-led Left Front, which contested the elections in a seat-sharing arrangement with the Congress, had fielded 47 candidates while 13 seats were allotted to the Congress.