Updated: March 4, 2018 7:00:06 am
Twenty-five years of Left rule in Tripura collapsed in spectacular fashion Saturday when the BJP stormed the Communist citadel to secure a two-thirds majority in the 60-member House.
Of the 59 constituencies where votes were cast on February 18, the BJP and its ally, Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), grabbed 43, ending Manik Sarkar’s four-term stint as Chief Minister. The BJP, which had secured 1.54 per cent votes in the 2013 assembly polls in the state, got over 43 per cent of the votes in the 51 seats it contested this time.
The CPM, which had 48.11 per cent votes in 2013, managed 42.6 per cent. But the Left Front was trounced in the numbers game, dropping from 50 to 16 seats. The Congress was decimated — it had 10 seats and 36.53 per cent vote share in 2013, but drew a blank this time.
In New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who will be seeking a second term next year when Lok Sabha elections are due, said the BJP’s Tripura win was not an ordinary electoral victory.
“This journey from ‘Shunya’ to ‘Shikhar’ has been made possible due to a solid development agenda and the strength of our organisation… The historic victory in Tripura is as much an ideological one. It is a win for democracy over brute force and intimidation… People do not have the time or respect for negative, disruptive and disconnected politics of any kind,” Modi said in a series of tweets.
BJP president Amit Shah said his party’s impressive victory was a sign of things to come in the next few elections and had energised party cadres for the 2019 elections.
Tripura BJP chief Biplab Kumar Deb, who won from Banamalipur, is tipped to be the next Chief Minister. The decision of the party parliamentary board is awaited.
Thanking people of the state for their overwhelming support and giving Modi and Shah the credit for the party’s performance, Deb told reporters: “People responded favourably to our call ‘Chalo Paltai’ (let’s change)… I am ready to take the responsibility. I will not run away from taking any responsibility.”
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who was in Agartala, said the party parliamentary board would meet and take a call on who would lead the party’s government.
In New Delhi, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said: “Tripura voters have given their mandate for a BJP-IPFT government in the state. We thank the people of Tripura for giving us the opportunity to serve them for the past 25 years.” He alleged that the BJP used “money and muscle power in Tripura”.
There was deep despondency among the CPM rank and file in Tripura. “This is a completely unexpected result. We knew it was a tough fight, but this result was unexpected. It is difficult for us to say right now why this has happened. We will have to sit with the results and analyse how the BJP made such inroads, and what our weaknesses may have been,’’ CPM state secretary Bijan Dhar said.
Sunil Deodhar, BJP in-charge of Tripura, said: “This has been an ideological war for us — to ensure that the Communists are routed from the country altogether. And there is no state more symbolic than Tripura. This victory is a message to Communists across the country — from JNU to Kerala to the entire anti-national gang… Manik Sarkar may have a clean image but that does not mean his government was clean. The people of Tripura knew this and voted accordingly.”
Apart from mobilising thousands of workers, of both the BJP and the RSS, the BJP focus this election was on government employees, women, youth and the tribals.
Tripura Congress vice-president Tapas Dey admitted as much: “We feel these are the four main groups that gave the BJP its win in the state. Women, who have a three per cent higher vote share than men in this election, voted against the CPM. It is true that women in the state are not safe. After UP, Tripura has the highest rate of crimes against women. They wooed the youth through an aggressive social media campaign. And the fact that unemployment is so high in the state, the youth so frustrated at not getting jobs, has played a major part in CPM’s defeat.”
“The government servant has largely voted for the BJP because of its promise to implement the 7th Pay Commission. But most importantly, the tribal voters, who formed the foundation of the CPM’s unbroken rule in Tripura, seem to have turned anti-Left. We feel that if the Left had projected a tribal chief ministerial candidate and not Manik Sarkar, then the BJP may not have been able to win,’’ Dey said.
Congress leaders also conceded that they were defeated even before the elections. Neglected by the AICC and its central command for years, the Congress saw six of its MLAs, led by Sudip Roy Burman, joining the Trinamool Congress in 2016. A year later, with the Trinamool Congress not making any visible inroads, they jumped ship to join the BJP. They took with them at least 2,000 Congress workers. But before that, an estimated 10,000 Congress workers had switched loyalties to the BJP.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.