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Tripura is all set to go for a fierce “battle for votes” on Sunday. The BJP, which got only 1.54 percent vote share in 2013 assembly election, is all out to root out the Manik Sarkar-led Left Front government in the red citadel.
The high-decibel campaign ended on Friday afternoon where the BJP had stalwarts like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, party chief Amit Shah, Chief Ministers from different states and more than a dozen union ministers leading the charge against the red brigade.
To expand its footprint in the northeast, the BJP forged alliance with Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) and hopes to benefit in the 20 tribal-dominated seats. Though the BJP stands for one-Tripura, it joined hands with IPFT, which is fighting for a separate tribal state. It is apparent that eyeing the 32 percent tribal voters in the state, the BJP tied up with the IPFT.
BJP’s crusade was led by two of its handpicked election organizers – Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and RSS pracharak-turned-BJP poll strategist Sunil Deodhar from Maharashtra.
During the last one month, the BJP practically booked almost all the hotels in Agartala and other major towns of Tripura, and flew in its finest election campaigners to mount a formidable pressure on the Left front in Tripura.
“We are expanding our base in Tripura every day and every minute,” Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said during one election meeting. The BJP is so confident of its electoral prospect that Himanta Biswa Sarma even threatened to dump Chief Minister Manik Sarkar in Bangladesh after Left Front’s humiliating defeat.
And, for the first time in last 30 years, the Left Front too looked to be under pressure. The last time such intense electioneering took place was in 1988, when the Congress had formed a coalition government with the Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti (TUJS).
But the Congress campaign has not been aggressive this time, and Rahul Gandhi addressed election rallies only on the last day of the campaign. The BJP has never been a major player in Tripura which up till now saw electoral battles between Left Front and the Congress.
But, why was the BJP, which has already formed governments in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh, so desperate to register victory in Tripura? Is it because the saffron party has realized that its electoral prospect in the other two poll-bound states in the Northeast — Meghalaya and Nagaland, is bleak?
Even though there is a strong anti-incumbency wave against the Mukul Sangma-led government in Meghalaya, there is a strong wield against the BJP as well in Christian-majority Meghalaya. In 2013 elections to the 60-member Meghalaya assembly, BJP candidates lost their security deposits in all the 13 seats the party contested, securing only 1.27 percent votes.
Though the saffron party is hopeful to register victory in some seats and is claiming to lead the next government in matrilineal Meghalaya, a large section of the electorates are branding the party to be “anti-Christian”. Denial of visa to a South African evangelist to attend the 150th anniversary of Garo Baptist Churches apparently ruined BJP’s electoral prospect in Meghalaya’s five Garo hills districts.
Even in Nagaland, the BJP is branded as an “outside party” and the delay in final settlement to the Naga peace agreement has dented the party’s electoral prospect. The BJP is contesting in only 20 seats, and has forged an alliance with the newly floated NDPP, which is led by former Chief Minister Nephieu Rio.
Though the BJP’s performance in the 2013 assembly elections was marginally better than Meghalaya and Tripura, political analysts are of the opinion that it would not be able to do much in insurgency-ravaged Nagaland. In 2013, it had won one of the 11 seats it contested in the 60-member house, securing 1.75 per cent votes-and eight of its candidates lost their deposits.
The Nagaland Baptist Church Council has already appealed to political parties to stop the BJP from assuming power in the state. Majority of Nagas are Baptists and the church’s directive will have major implications in the battle for ballots.
But, will BJP’s slogan – Chalo Paltai (Lets Change) have any impact in Tripura? Will the indoctrinated CPI (M) supporters vote for the BJP?