TRIPURA WILL know Saturday the results of one of its most hotly contested elections in recent years. It will also know which side of the ideological divide it has decided to stand — Left or Right.
Considered the first true test for the Left Front government of 25 years in the state — 20 of which saw Chief Minister Manik Sarkar at the helm — this assembly election was more than just about ideology.
On the eve of counting, while CPI(M) leaders maintained that the high voting percentage — more than 91 per cent — would work in their favour, rival BJP leaders said the turnout indicates the people of Tripura had voted for change.
In the tight fight, the voters appeared split down the middle, with the Left Front’s “dedicated voters” choosing to remain with the red parties, while a considerable chunk of the youth appeared to lean more towards the BJP.
“This has been a tough fight, and an extremely important election. Not just for Tripura but for the entire country. Other political parties like the Congress may be our political rivals, but the BJP-RSS combine is our ideological foe,” said CPI(M) Politburo member Mohammad Salim, who campaigned widely in the state during the elections.
“Not only is it the first time in the country’s electoral history that there has been a direct fight between the Left and the Right, but also the first time that the Left has fought against so many political parties — the BJP, TMC, Congress,” he said.
“It is true that the BJP managed to woo the youth. Their campaign was full of glitz and glamour and false promises. Of promising jobs and smart phones… They also pushed their social media campaign in order to reach out to the youth. They used temples and ashrams to reach out to voters and tried to use religious sentiment in their favour, the same thing they did in Assam,” Salim said.
BJP Tripura in-charge Sunil Deodhar appeared confident of a win. He said the people of Tripura were exhausted of the same government and the “same old faces year after year”.
“Tripura has been important for us. Although there were elections in three Northeastern states, Tripura is the most important (state) for us because it is run by Communists. The idea is to break the back of the Communists,” Deodhar said.
The BJP’s push in this election, apart from the youth vote, has been to try and break the CPI(M)’s grip over 20 constituencies that are reserved for tribals. Only once, in 1988, did the tribal voter go with the Congress-TUJS alliance. The Left has consistently won most of the 20 seats. It is this tribal vote, BJP insiders said, that will possibly determine the final outcome.
Counting for 59 of the 60 seats will begin at 8 am. After the death of CPI(M) candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma, polling for Charilam seat has been rescheduled for March 12.