Notwithstanding the ruling BJP’s resounding victory on Sunday in 20 civic bodies in Tripura, the Trinamool Congress — a new entrant in the state politics, emerged a strong political force in the Tripura politics, 14 months ahead of the crucial assembly polls in the saffron party-ruled northeastern state.
According to the political experts, with Trinamool emerging as a formidable party, a multi-corner contest is evident in the 2023 assembly elections — between the BJP, CPI-M-led Left parties, Trinamool, and the Congress, unlike in the previous elections when the main contests were mainly between the Left parties and the non-Left parties led by Congress.
Though the State Election Commission (SEC) is yet to announce the party-wise vote percentage, unofficial calculation shows that in the civic polls across Tripura, the BJP secured 59 per cent votes followed by the Left — 19.65 per cent, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) –16.39 per cent, and the Congress — 2.07 per cent.
In Thursday’s elections, around five lakh urban voters out of the state’s total electorate of 27 lakh, were eligible to cast vote.
According to the SEC, over 81 per cent of voters have exercised their franchise.
Amid allegations of pre-poll violence by all the Opposition parties, the BJP had earlier won 112 (34 per cent) seats uncontested in seven urban local bodies and after the declarations of the results on Sunday, the party wrested power in the remaining 12 municipal bodies and the politically important Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC).
The BJP candidates won in all the 51 seats in the AMC and 165 seats in the Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats.
According to the SEC officials, the main opposition party CPI-M won three seats in three municipal bodies in Kailashahar, Ambassa and Panisagar while the TMC won one seat in Ambassa Municipal council.The Trinamool Congress secured second position in 27 of the 51 seats in the prestigious AMC putting up a big challenge to both the ruling BJP and the key opposition CPI-M led Left parties.
However, the Left parties and the TMC did not put up candidates in all the 334 seats in the civic elections to the AMC and 19 other urban local bodies – Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats — alleging unprecedented political violence, attacks and intimidations.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, BJP President J.P. Nadda, several central leaders and Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled states have congratulated the state leaders for the party’s performance in the civic polls.
Modi tweeted: “The people of Tripura have given a clear message – that they prefer politics of good governance. I would like to thank them for the unequivocal support to BJP Tripura.These blessings give us greater strength to work for the welfare of each and every person in Tripura.”
“I would like to applaud the BJP Tripura Karyakartas who worked tirelessly on the ground and served people. Under the leadership of Shri Biplab Deb Ji, the State Government has been at the forefront of many initiatives, which the people have duly blessed,” Modi said in another tweet.
TMC’s National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee in a series of tweets described the party’s performance in the Tripura civic poll as their big success ahead of the 2023 assembly elections in the BJP-ruled Tripura.
He tweeted: “This is despite the fact that we commenced our activities barely 3 months ago and BJP in Tripura left no stone unturned to butcher democracy in Tripura. Congratulations to all the brave soldiers of AITC in Tripura for their exemplary courage.”
“It is exceptional for a party beginning with negligible presence to successfully contest municipal elections and emerge as the principal opposition in the state with more than 20 per cent vote share,” he said in another tweet.
The BJP on the other hand claimed that despite conspiracies, the party secured a landslide victory in the civic polls.
Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb tweeted: “Referendum of Tripura Urban Local Body Elections declared today (Sunday) shows the faith of people of Tripura in the developmental policies of Hon’ble PM Shri Narendra Modi Ji. It also shows their belief in his motto of Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas.”
“I am thankful to all the people of Tripura and Dev Tulya karyakartas of Tripura BJP for their affection and support. I consider your votes to BJP Tripura as blessings and these blessings motivate us to work harder for the development of all 37 Lakh people of the state,” Deb said in another tweet.
After Tripura became a full-fledged state around 50 years ago, the CPI-M led Left Front governed the state for 35 years (1978-1988 and 1993-2018) and the Congress and allied parties ruled for the remaining period. Since 2018, the BJP became the main political force with the TMC of late trying to set up bases in the northeastern states, leading to a multi-cornered contest in the upcoming assembly polls.
After the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the first time wrested power in Tripura in March 2018 and the rise of the new tribal based political party Tiprahaa Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) led by Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman earlier this year, the two main traditional political forces — the CPI-M and the Congress — are gradually dwindling.
Both the Left and the Congress performed poorly in the last Lok Sabha polls in 2019, the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council in 2021 and the three-tier Gram Panchayat elections in 2019, though the opposition parties alleged “large scale rigging and malpractices by the ruling party”.
The TMC, led by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has targeted Tripura, Assam, Meghalaya, Goa and few other states to expand its base, buoyed by its electoral success in the March-April Bengal elections.
Though no heavyweight leaders except the Congress’ Subal Bhowmik, Prakash Das and BJP MLA Ashis Das, have joined the TMC, it is organising political events for the past three months with support from its MPs, Ministers and leaders from Bengal.
Political commentator Sanjib Deb said that as a multi-cornered contest is expected in the upcoming polls, normally the ruling party gets an electoral advantage.
“The newest force TMC is yet to set up its organisational structures across the state and there is no heavyweight face in Tripura in the Bengal based party.”
“Except a south Indian party, no regional parties, which are mainly leader centric, in India have so far obtained electoral success outside its original territory,” Deb, editor of a regional English daily — North East Colors, told IANS.
The main opposition CPI-M after its series of electoral setbacks since 2018, recently suffered another big blow when two of its top leaders — state secretary Gautam Das and Left Front convener Bijan Dhar — died recently due to Covid-19.
To regain its base among the tribals, the party recently appointed tribal leader Jitendra Chaudhury as the state secretary.
(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at email@example.com)