Tripura: BJP Gains Ground As Congress-Left Bid To Form Alliance Boomerangs And Tribal Outfit Left In The Cold

Tripura: BJP Gains Ground As Congress-Left Bid To Form Alliance Boomerangs And Tribal Outfit Left In The Cold

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Tuesday, January 10, 2023 05:41 PM IST
Tripura: BJP Gains Ground As Congress-Left Bid To Form Alliance Boomerangs And Tribal Outfit Left In The ColdTripura Chief Minister Manik Saha and Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma.
  • Talk about the Tipra Motha forming an alliance with the Congress or the Left, or both, did not help any of the three.

    Non-tribals started viewing the Left and the Congress with a fair degree of suspicion. 

A spirited effort by leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-CPI(M)-led Left Front and the Congress to form a united front against the BJP has failed to take off on the ground. 

Another bid by tribal party Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance, called the Tipra Motha, to join hands with non-BJP parties to unseat the saffron party from power in the state has left it isolated and out in the cold. 

These manoeuvrings by the opposition parties has given the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a distinct advantage, and that is amply evident from the enthusiastic response to the party’s ‘Jana Vishwas Yatras’ that were flagged off by Union Home Minister Amit Shah last week. 

The two rath yatras are now criss-crossing the state and will cover more than one thousand kilometres, before they end their journey at state capital Agartala on Thursday (12 January).

A rally to mark the conclusion of the two yatras will be addressed by party national president Jagat Prakash Nadda. 

The two yatras have covered more than 70 per cent of their respective routes and most of the state’s 60 Assembly seats. The public response to the two mass contact programmes aimed at highlighting the achievements of the BJP government in the state and at the centre, have been receiving a very good response, according to numerous accounts in local newspapers and TV channels. 

“As Amit Shahji rightly said (while flagging off the yatras), the BJP has brought Tripura out of darkness. Till five years ago, violence, insurgency and terror unleashed by Left cadres made the lives of ordinary people miserable. Tripura was steeped in poverty and backwardness. Insurgency has been stamped out and a new era of development has been ushered in. People no longer live in fear,” state BJP chief, Rajeev Bhattacharjee told Swarajya

The BJP had dealt a body blow to the Left Front and the Congress in the 2018 Assembly elections. The BJP won 36 seats and its ally, the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT), won 8. 

The CPI(M) bagged 16 seats, a very poor show compared to its performance in the 2013 elections that it had swept by winning 49 constituencies. Its allies — CPI, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and Forward Bloc — failed to win in any seat. The Congress also drew a blank. 

But after a good start, the BJP-IPFT government in the state appeared to be floundering. Chief minister Biplab Deb made himself the object of ridicule with some atrocious statements. And the state unit was soon beset with infighting and factionalism.

An alarmed BJP central leadership intervened and replaced Deb with Manik Saha in May last year. That was a smart move that neutralised anti-incumbency that was mounting against the Biplab Deb government. 

The non-controversial Saha has proved himself to be an able administrator and one who has taken along all factions of the party with him, thus ending the earlier infighting and bad blood.

BJP Gains From Opposition Moves

But what has really boosted the BJP’s prospects is the shenanigans of the non-BJP parties. First, it was the formation and emergence of the Tipra Motha that provided tailwinds to the BJP. And then came the desperate bid by the Left and the Congress to form a united front against the BJP. 

“People of Tripura have seen through such unprincipled alliances and are rejecting them. The CPI(M) and the Congress, which have long fought each other, have reached an understanding but their unethical alliance has alienated many,” said state BJP chief Rajeev Bhattacharjee. 

Chief Minister Manik Saha told Swarajya that the tribals of the state have also seen through the duplicity of the Tipra Motha. “The Motha was formed to mislead the tribals. The statehood demand is a bogey and even the leaders of that party know that it is an impossible demand. They have only misled the tribals,” said Saha. 

“The tribals need jobs and development and the BJP government has been able to ensure that. The tribal areas of Tripura are no longer steeped in poverty and backwardness that they had been till five years ago,” claimed the Chief Minister. 

State Information Minister Sushanta Chowdhury, told Swarajya that people of Tripura feel that the Tipra Motha was propped up by the CPI(M) to neutralise the IPFT. 

“The dishonest moves by the Tipra Mota, Congress and the CPI(M) to defeat the BJP have not only boomeranged, but made the BJP stronger since the people of the state have seen through these immoral moves,” said Chowdhury. 

Why The Tipra Motha Has Lost Its Sheen

The Tipra Motha was formed in 2019 by the young scion of the Tripura royal family, Pradyot Bikam Manikya Deb Barma

He was earlier in the Congress and was appointed the state Congress chief in February 2019, but resigned from the party accusing it of corruption and malpractices.

The Tipra Motha, which has the demand for carving out a ‘Greater Tipraland’ state for the tribals, out of the tribal-dominated areas of Tripura as its central plank, gained a lot of ground and posed a tough challenge to BJP’s tribal ally IPFT. 

Many leaders and workers of the IPFT defected to the Tipra Motha, whose charismatic leader (Manikya Deb Barma) captured the imagination of the tribals. 

But the emergence of the Motha and its ferocious advocacy of a separate ‘Greater Tipraland’ state alarmed the Bengali non-tribals who are in a majority in the state. 

The Tipra Motha adopted a very aggressive stance against the IPFT and the BJP and encouraged its tribal cadres to go on the offensive against the ruling allies. The BJP was especially targeted and many of its tribal workers and supporters threatened and even attacked. 

The Tipra Motha also adopted a very combative stance on its demand for ‘Greater Tipraland’. Initially, the Motha’s shrill advocacy of ‘Greater Tipraland’ attracted a huge number of gullible tribals. 

But the BJP went on a silent offensive in the tribal areas and initiated a massive outreach programme that remained under the Motha’s radar. 

“We started reaching out silently and discreetly to the tribals and explaining to them the hollowness of the Motha’s advocacy of Greater Tipraland. We explained to the people that a separate state is not viable and achievable and what matters most is development, education, proper healthcare, jobs and peace,” explained Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma who belongs to the erstwhile royal family of the state. 

This outreach started yielding results and support for the Motha started declining. Many tribals started distancing themselves from the Motha. 

Simultaneously, the Motha’s demand for a separate state alarmed the Bengali non-tribals who feared a return to the dark days of tribal insurgency that claimed hundreds of lives. The non-tribals slowly rallied behind the BJP which was the only party to oppose the Motha’s statehood demand. 

The Congress and the Left adopted an ambivalent stand on the ‘Greater Tipraland’ demand initially and that cost the two a lot of public support. It also strengthened the perception that the CPI(M) had fuelled Tipra Motha’s rise. 

The Tipra Motha’s open dalliances with the Congress and the CPI(M), and talk about the Motha forming an alliance with the Congress or the Left, or both, did not help any of the three. Non-tribals started viewing the Left and the Congress with a fair degree of suspicion. 

When the Left and the Congress effected a course-correction and adopted a firm stand against the Motha’s ‘Greater Tipraland’ demand, the Motha’s tribal supporters were left confused and angry. They could not understand why the Motha was flirting with the Left and the Congress, and that alienated them somewhat from the Motha. 

Why The Left-Congress Bid To Form Anti-BJP Front Has Not Worked

CPI(M) and Congress leaders have been floating the idea of forming a joint platform to resist the BJP and an electoral alliance between the two is likely. 

But workers of the two parties on the ground are unenthusiastic about this proposed alliance or understanding. That’s because the two have been fighting each other, often viciously and bloodily, for the past few decades. 

The Congress and the CPI(M) have been ferocious rivals till the BJP started gaining strength in the state in 2017. Many Congress workers lost their lives at the hands of CPI(M) cadres and vice versa. Thus, there exists strong antipathy and even enmity between workers and functionaries of the two parties at the grassroots level. 

The proposed alliance between the two parties, and the inevitable seat-sharing that will follow, has left many workers of the two parties disillusioned and angry with their leaders. Many workers have also disassociated themselves from their parties. 

The proposed alliance has led to a negative public perception about both the parties.

“People are not fools and they can understand that blind opposition to the BJP is what has driven the two political rivals, who have been at daggers drawn till now, into each other's arms and into an unholy alliance. Such sort of opportunism does not go down well with the masses,” explained a Congress leader who has retired from active politics but retains strong ties with his party. 

BJP’s Positive Campaign Helping Party

The BJP, on the other hand, has taken a principled stance and offered to renew the alliance with the IPFT. And the saffron party has also concentrated wholly on running a positive campaign by highlighting the achievements of the BJP-IPFT alliance government over the past five years. 

“We have a lot of achievements to highlight. We are also reminding people of how we have changed Tripura and taken it out of the dark and tumultuous times. That has garnered a lot of positivity for us and won us huge support,” said Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Dev Varma. 

Elections in the state are still some time away and the Election Commission is yet to announce the dates. But the BJP has hit the ground running. Amit Shah has flagged off the party’s election campaign and party pointsman in Northeast, Himanta Biswa Sarma, has already addressed a couple of rallies. 

While the BJP, thus, enjoys the early mover advantage, it has gained a lot from the unethical and opportunistic ties and conduct of the opposition parties. 

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