June 29, 2022 11:27:53 am
The heady days of winter 2021 must seem to be from an age ago for the Trinamool Congress (TMC). The party’s morale in the North East was high, with a number of high-profile joinings, including that of virtually the entire Meghalaya Congress unit, and a respectable performance in the Tripura urban local body polls. With a vote share of around 20 per cent in the Agartala Municipal Corporation election, the party had left the CPI(M) behind while the Congress was nearly wiped out.
The Tripura bypoll results have, however, dealt a setback to the TMC that also faced a bruising defeat in the Goa Assembly polls in February. TMC’s campaign managers concede that the party refused to see the writing on the wall in Tripura. The party failed to win any of the four seats that were at stake and its vote shares were also low. In Agartala, it received 2.1 per cent of the votes while the vote shares were 2.98 per cent in Jubarajnagar, 3.4 per cent in Surma, and 2.96 per cent in Town Bardowali.
“By rejoining the Congress, Sudip Roy Barman changed the equation. He is a formidable face in Agartala, which sent him to the Assembly five times between 1998 and 2018. So, we could not repeat our performance here despite putting up a popular face,” said a TMC leader who was involved with the party’s campaign.
Historical trends show that vote shares of parties swing wildly in Tripura, the country’s third-smallest state. The Congress’s vote share crashed from 36.5 per cent in the 2013 Assembly polls to 1.79 per cent in 2018, shifting to the BJP that saw its share rise from 1.5 per cent to 43.59 per cent.
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In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress saw its share rise to 25.34 per cent and it shrank to 2.07 per cent in the urban local body polls. “That is when the party occupied some space. But it could not hold on to that as a local popular face infused fresh life into the Congress,” said the TMC leader.
And due to the absence of a local face with a mass appeal in its state unit, the TMC was no match for the Congress that managed to get its support base revived in the urban areas, where the party performed well even during the heyday of the Left Front that governed Tripura from 1998 to 2018.
“The party needs experienced people in its ranks, along with fresh blood,” said a senior TMC leader. The Tripura unit head, Subal Bhowmik, formerly with the BJP, has attributed the recent losses to “organisational weaknesses”.
“The party still does not have a permanent office building in the state. There is no booth-level presence. The anti-BJP electorate also voted strategically. Why will they vote for a party that does not even have an office?” said the senior functionary on the condition of anonymity.
On Tuesday, TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee said the party would not abandon its plans to grow in the state and would continue to fight.
Meanwhile, TMC leaders in the state also claimed that the CPI(M) helped the Congress “as part of a tacit deal”. A party functionary said, “Even in 2018, CPI(M) candidate polled over 17,000 votes in the Agartala constituency. This time, it came down to a little over 6,000. In the Town Bardowali seat, which is also in the capital city, the Left Front candidate had received over 13,000 votes in 2018, while he got barely 3,000 votes.”
Going ahead, the party, which maintains that Barman’s win does not signal a revival of the Congress, plans to focus on building a “grassroots narrative”. Said a local leader, “The launch of the party’s office space in Agartala will be a good beginning.”
Meanwhile, the TMC will launch its Meghalaya office today in the presence of Abhishek Banerjee.
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