The CPI-M is confident of retaining power in its bastion of Tripura in Sunday’s assembly elections and achieving a turnaround in the Left movement across the country, though the BJP is battling tooth and nail to oust the Left Front government.
In India’s 65-year-long electoral history, the country’s dominant Left party, the CPI-M, has never been in direct confrontation with the BJP.
However, political developments in Tripura in 2016 and 2017 have set the stage for their first face-to-face battle as the saffron outfit has emerged as the key opposition party in this Communist-ruled NE state.
All the top leaders of CPI-M, BJP, Congress and Trinamool Congress participated in the hectic two-month long poll campaign that ended on Friday afternoon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah and party’s general secretary in-charge of northeastern states Ram Madhav, the Chief Ministers of five BJP-ruled states, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, many party politburo members including Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat, Biman Bose, addressed a record number of election rallies since December.
Hours before the end of campaign, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and other central leaders boosted the campaign of the Congress party, which has been hit by large numbers of top state party leaders, seven MLAs and huge number of workers joining the BJP since last year.
Ballotting will take place in 59 of the 60 assembly constituencies. Polling has been deferred in Charilam due to the death of CPI-M candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma.
In all 292 candidates, including 23 women and many independents, would be testing their electoral fortunes in Sunday’s election.
After Tripura become a full-fledged state in January 1972 along with Meghalaya and Manipur, the CPI-M dominated Left Front was in power since 1978 except for 11 years (1972-1977 and 1988-1993) when the Congress and the breakaway Congress led by five Chief Ministers ran the state.
The Congress, which since 1983 fought the elections in alliance with the tribal-based party, is facing the poll battle alone this time.
The BJP, which previously fought elections alone, has aligned with the tribal-based party IPFT for Sunday’s election. The IPFT has since 2009 been agitating for a separate state containing Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.
The separate state demand has been rejected by all political parties.
The ruling CPI-M has fielded 57 candidates, leaving one seat each to its Left Front partners — the Communist Party of India, Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party. The BJP is contesting 51 seats and has left nine seats for ally IPFT.
The Congress fielded candidates for all 60 constituencies. The Trinamool Congress has fielded 24 candidates.
The BJP, which has never won any assembly seat in Tripura so far and secured a mere 1.54 per cent votes in 2013, is very confident of getting a reasonable number of vote share and seats in the elections.
Of the 60 seats, 20 are reserved for tribals and 10 for Scheduled Caste. One third of Tripura’s around 40 lakh populations are tribals. Their official language is tribal ‘Kokborok’.
In the 2013 assembly elections, the CPI-M alone had won 49 seats, while CPI secured one. In the 2016 by-elections, CPI-M wrested the Barjala seat from the Congress taking the Left tally to 51.
Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is the BJP’s Tripura election in-charge, claimed that Tripura would be the BJP’s 20th state.