ALMOST EXACTLY a year after six Congress MLAs from Tripura rebelled and joined the Trinamool Congress, making it the principal opposition in the Left Front-governed state, the six are now reportedly toying with the idea of joining the BJP. Sudip Roy Barman, who was leader of Opposition in Assembly, and five other MLAs had quit the Congress in protest against the party’s electoral understanding with the CPI(M)-led Left Front in the West Bengal state elections, and joined the TMC on June 7.
According to a source in the BJP, the MLAs are likely to join the party as early as next month. “The Trinamool has six MLAs in the Assembly, and with all of them joining the BJP, there is no question of the anti-defection law (coming into action),” the BJP leader said. If the move fructifies, this will be the first time the BJP will have a presence in Tripura Assembly. The source said the party has been working on this for the past nearly six months. The other part of its long-term strategy in the state, sources said, is to continue nurturing the tenuous alliance of local tribal parties through the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
The saffron party has courted both the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), which demand a separate statehood of Twipraland, comprising tribal areas. Assam’s Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also the convener of NEDA, is likely to hold talks with the two parties for formation of an alliance with the BJP for the Assembly elections, due early next year. Top TMC leader Mukul Roy, who had returned to the party after a year-long rift with party supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had gone to Tripura last summer and was seen as instrumental in ensuring the switchover.
But a senior TMC leader maintained that all was not well for the party in Tripura in the months since. “Banerjee came twice, and promised to do a lot for the party and people of Tripura. But there has been no change on the ground,” the leader said. The BJP seems to have gained from that void, as the recent bypolls to Khowai and Barjala (SC) seats pointed out. While the Left retained Khorai and won Barjala from Congress, the BJP finished second on both seats. BJP spokesperson Mrinal Kanti Deb said, “The bypolls made it clear that since 2014, BJP is the alternative to the Left in Tripura…. We established that in the plains the fight is between the Left and BJP.”