February 1, 2018 2:40:47 am
The small town of Kalyanpur in East Tripura is surrounded by paddy fields and large ponds. On Wednesday, the road approaching the football field at the heart of this part-urban, part-rural assembly seat was dotted with red flags of the CPI(M), which were more abundant on the field itself.
Kalyanpur was once at the heart of Tripura’s insurgency, now ended, and its tribal secessionist movement, with the National Liberation Front of Tripura (formed in 1978 with the help of the Mizo National Front) having carried out various operations from Kalyanpur and its surrounding areas. Since the 1970s, the issue of tribal secession would resurface only intermittently — until last year, when a demand for a separate state gained momentum, led by the tribal party IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura) that has now tied up with the BJP.
On his campaign for the February 18 elections in Tripura, Kalyanpur was a natural stop for CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury. “When Modi saab comes to Tripura, you must tell the Prime Minister that the country doesn’t need a neta but neeti. And neeti that is in interest of the public. For the BJP there are two Indias — the Rich India or Shining India and then the everyone else or Tarasta Bharat (suffering India),” Yechury told a gathering of thousands.
Yechury spoke extensively about the “BJP’s attempt at divisive politics in Tripura”. “They have tied up with IPFT,” he told the crowd. “Do you remember what happened during Partition? If Tripura is divided, the sufferings of Partition will be repeated,” he added. “The Left works for the people. The Left does not want a divided Tripura. You have to defeat IPFT and show those who think that the Left does not exist in India anymore, that the red flag has a future and that Tripura has shown that this future exists.”
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On the sidelines of the public meeting, Yechury told The Indian Express that he believes the “tactics” the BJP has used elsewhere will not work in the state. “This is a state where people are politically aware — that the state government came to power through a mass struggle and a mass movement. The voter here will not be as pliable to influences of money, threats and intimidation as they are in other parts of the country. The BJP has perfected the art of losing elections and then forming governments — like they did in Manipur or in Goa. But the government in Tripura is not one of patronage; it is a people’s government,” he said.
Yechury cited Left Front achievements in Tripura — high human development indices, 97% literacy, highest number of man-hours under MNREGA, largest number of pattas given to tribals — which the BJP will not be able to defeat with its “divisive politics”.
“There is an incumbency factor, it is true. But where is the alternative for the people?” Yechury said. “The Congress doesn’t exist here anymore. And the BJP’s divisive politics will put them on the backfoot here. I believe that their alliance with the IPFT will be counterproductive and work against them. The IPFT has been aggressively pushing their platform for a separate [state] for tribals. The BJP has been ambiguous about this issue, saying that it stands for social and linguistic uplift and not a separate state. The voters will be able to see through the doublespeak,” he said. He added the Left was not worried about the BJP making inroads.
“It is certain that the BJP will not be forming government. But if they have made inroads it is because they have eaten up all other parties including the tribal parties and the Congress. This is not sustainable in the long run,” he said. “And in any case, this will only last for the time they are in power in Delhi.”
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