By Barun Das Gupta
Having inflicted a humiliating defeat on the BJP and coming back to power for the third consecutive time in West Bengal, a resurgent Trinamool Congress has set its sights on Tripura, a BJP-ruled State, where State Assembly elections are due in February, 2023, or a year and a half from now. Chief Minister Biplab Deb has been known for his non-governance rather than for his efforts at developing the tiny north-eastern State. The BJP came to power in Tripura by weaning over activists of other parties like the Congress, the CPI-M and the TMC. Today these defectors stand thoroughly disillusioned with the performance of the party which once claimed to be a “party with a difference.”
The people of Tripura want a change desperately. The TMC is making a determined bid to dislodge the BJP Government. The morale of the BJP in Tripura is at its nadir. State-level leaders and grass root level workers are leaving the party in droves and joining the TMC. Even the Speaker of Tripura Assembly, Rebati Mohan Das has resigned. In a desperate bid to keep him in the party, the leadership made him the vice-president of the State unit as soon as he resigned. The political grapevine in Agartala is that he is going to quit and join the TMC shortly. What is most surprising is that when the party is disintegrating, the Chief Minister has kept completely mum. He has not opened his mouth at a time when his party is facing an existential threat.
Some top leaders of the TMC like Bengal Education Minister Bratya Basu, TMC MP Shantanu Sen, national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee, youth leader and West Bengal party spokesman Debangshu Bhattacharyya are flying to and fro between Kolkata and Agartala frequently. Many of them have received lathi blows from the police when taking part in mass agitations in Tripura.
The young and inexperienced Chief Minister, cast in the RSS mould, often cuts a comic figure by his reckless statements. He has claimed that Internet and satellite communication was in vogue during the Mahabharata days. Proof: Sanjay gave a running commentary on the Kurukshetra war to Dhritarashtra. Another pearl of wisdom that only civil engineers should join the civil services; those who are from a mechanical engineering background shot not go in for civil services. Instances can be multiplied.
Tripura’s population can be roughly divided into two-thirds Bengalis and one-third tribals. In the last elections the BJP won with the support of a section of tribals. But by now the BJP has largely alienated the tribals. The TMC is trying to forge an alliance with the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA). It is negotiating with the leader of the TIPRA, Pradyot Kishsore Deb Barma. Once a solid base of the CPI-M, the tribals have largely, but not totally, moved away from the CPI-M.
The CPI-M is also trying to put its house in order. It has one asset in the person of the former chief minister Manik Sarkar who realizes the danger of the BJP and the communal forces it represents. During his election campaign in West Bengal he was repeatedly emphasizing on the danger of communal forces and telling the people that the BJP must be defeated to defeat thecommunal and authoritarian forces. His mode of campaigning was in sharp contrast with that of his Bengal comrades whose line was that both the BJP and the TMC are enemies, but the TMC is the greater enemy.
Mass meetings being currently held by the CPI-M in Tripura see good turnouts. The party’s image in Tripura is far cleaner than the Bengal party’s. Its three and a half decades of uninterrupted rule in Bengal saw corruption take root in the party’s middle and lower levels. In Tripura, throughout its rule, the party scrupulously avoided the pomp and pageantry of power.
However, the political situation in Tripura has undergone a sea change. Both CPI(M) and the Trinamool are vying for getting the advantage of erosion of BJP support base. There is no doubt that the BJP is slowly losing ground to the TMC. It believes that when Mamata Banerjee comes to Tripura, there will be a groundswell of support for the party and a heavy erosion in the BJP.
That the saffron party is afraid of losing power, is obvious. On the one hand it claims that the TMC is no force to challenge the BJP in Tripura while on the other hand it is adopting strong-arm methods against the TMC. Its rallies are coming under physical attack from the BJP activists, permission to hold public meetings is often denied on one pretext or another. Power supply is often disturbed in the TMC meetings. But the cumulative effect of all these is making the BJP more and more unpopular. The TMC exudes the calm confidence of a party that will sweep to power. After West Bengal, Tripura is the next target in the party’s determined bid to be a real all-India party. (IPA Service)