A LITTLE over a year after six Congress MLAs from Tripura had rebelled, joining the Trinamool Congress and making it the prime Opposition in the state, the six are now likely to join the BJP by the end of this month, sources said. According to a BJP source, “The TMC MLAs are going to join the BJP next month. With the Trinamool having six MLAs in the Assembly and all of them joining the BJP, there is no question of it falling under the purview of Anti-Defection Act.”
This will be the first time that the BJP will have a presence in the Tripura Assembly and the move, which the party leadership has been working on since the past six months, is one half of their long-term strategy in the state. The other half is to continue nurturing the tenuous alliance of the local tribal parties through the North-East Democratic Alliance (NEDA).
Both the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) and Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), which demand for a separate state of Twipraland, have been continuously courted by the BJP. Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sharma, who is also the Convener of the NEDA, was likely to hold talks with the two parties for formation of an alliance with the BJP for the state Assembly elections due in March, 2018, added sources.
In May 2016, Mukul Roy, who had returned to the party fold after his much talked about year-long rift with Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee, went to Tripura and was instrumental in ensuring that the MLAs led by Sudip Roy Burman – the son of former Tripura chief minister Samir Ranjan Burman – joined the TMC. Sudip Roy Barman, the Leader of the Opposition in the Tripura Assembly, and five other MLAs had left the Congress to protest against the Left-Congress alliance in West Bengal ahead of 2016 Assembly elections there.
TMC leaders, however, maintained all hasn’t been well in the past year. A senior leader said, “Mamata Banerjee has come to Tripura twice. She promised to do a lot for the party and people of Tripura. But her promises were found to be hollow. There has been no change on the ground.”
The two by-elections conducted in Khowai seats and Barjala (SC) seats were also an important precipitating event. The two seats saw the Left win as expected, retaining Khorai and winning Barjala from the Congress. The election, though, left the BJP happy and the Left worried. In Barjala for instance, BJP finished second and the Trinamool got a mere 5,692 seats. In Khowai, a Left bastion, Trinamool lost with a massive margin of 16,094 votes.
According to BJP spokesperson Mrinal Kanti Deb, “The victory made it clear that since 2014, it was BJP that was the alternative to the Left. In the last Assembly bypolls, we had done well. But at that time, the TMC wasn’t in the picture. But during the bypolls, we established that in the plains, the fight is between the Left and BJP. In the Khowai seat, in which we were confident that we would do well, our margin is over 50 per cent more than the TMC’s.”