The CPM may have scored thumping victories in the byelections to Pratapgarh and Surma assembly constituencies of Tripura but it has taken note of the rise of the BJP as an alarming sign.
“The increase in the BJP vote share bears dangerous portents,” said CPM state secretary Bijan Dhar. From not contesting in Pratapgarh in 2013 to 20 per cent in the bypoll, from 1 per cent to 18 per cent in Surma, the BJP gained at the expense of the Congress. In the last one year alone, it has multiplied its vote count four times since the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in both segments.
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Rather than credit the BJP, Dhar puts the blame on the Congress and its failure to fight communal forces. “The people have been fed up with the corruption and betrayal of the Congress. While a section of them have voted for the Left Front, most Congress and TMC supporters have voted for the BJP. It cannot be the BJP’s credit,” Dhar said in Agartala. “Had the Congress appealed to its supporters to cast conscience votes, the BJP would not have got so many votes.”
Daily Desher Katha, a newspaper run by the CPM, said the BJP had whipped up sentiments in the name of B R Ambedkar among the SC community in the two constituencies, both reserved. “This has to be fought. Those who went the wrong path, got confused and cast votes in favour of the BJP should realise their mistake and correct themselves,” it said.
Another senior CPM leader, Gautam Das, said the Congress had failed to learn lessons from its past mistakes. “That is one reason why the BJP got more votes,” he said.
State Congress leaders have been occupied fighting among themselves, and hardly any of senior state leader went out to campaign for their candidates. “We had very little support (from the TPCC). There was no organised campaign. This demoralised workers,” admitted Pratapgarh Congress candidate Ranjit Das, who got only 1,120 votes, or 6 per cent.
The BJP has welcomed the “change” but Dainik Sambad, an independent newspaper, has questioned what kind of “change” that is. “Where is the so-called indication of change when the CPM’s vote share did not reduce, and instead has gone up in absolute numbers? The results of these byelections do not in any way indicate any change in the near future,” the newspaper said, questioning whether the BJP will be really able to take on Manik Sarkar and his CPM.
BJP state president Sudhindra Dasgupta Dasgupta said the BJP vote share would have gone up further but for “terror” allegedly spread by the Left. “People been living in fear. Many of our supporters could not come out to vote because of intimidation,” he alleged.