BJP inching ahead in India’s lone Left bastion of Tripura

(News Analysis)By Sujit Chakraborty

 After creating a significant electoral footprint in Congress-ruled Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya, the BJP is inching ahead in Tripura, the lone Left-ruled state in the country. The Congress, on the other hand, is losing its political space in the northeastern states, once a party stronghold.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got 7.87 percent of the votes in the May 3 elections to the 30-seat Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council.

It secured 23.33 percent votes in by-polls to two Tripura assembly seats, the highest for the BJP in any election so far in the state ruled by Communist Party of India-Marxist-led Left Front.

The BJP bagged 5.7 percent votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and only 1.54 percent votes in the 2013 assembly elections in Tripura.

The party managed 115,319 votes in last year’s parliamentary polls compared with 59,457 votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

The by-elections to Pratapgarh and Surma assembly constituencies, both reserved for candidates from the scheduled castes, were held on June 27 and results declared on Tuesday.

The by-polls were necessitated by the death of CPI-M stalwart and former minister Anil Sarkar (Pratapgarh) and former minister Sudhir Das (Surma).

The CPI-M won Pratapgarh for the ninth consecutive time and succeeded in Surma for the eighth time in a row.

The Left party blamed the Congress, Trinamool Congress and other non-BJP parties for BJP’s rise in Tripura.

“Congress’ misrule, hypocrisy in fighting against communal happenings and its weak political campaign to uphold secularism in the entire country helped the BJP to grow,” CPI-M Tripura state committee secretary and party’s central committee member Bijan Dhar told IANS.

Jubilant BJP leaders in Tripura claimed that they would achieve their goal of electoral victory in the next assembly elections in 2018.

“The BJP will be the main opposition in Tripura now. The party’s pro-people campaign and struggle, besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government’s good governance, facilitated the party to steadily go forward in the northeastern states,” BJP’s national executive member and Tripura unit president Sudhindra Dasgupta told IANS.

“Since August last, over 15,000 workers and leaders from different parties, specially the Congress, joined the BJP and more would join the party soon,” he said.

The Congress, which last ruled Tripura in 1988-1993, admitted the results were a matter of concern for the party.

“Percentage of votes secured by our candidates in the by-polls in the two assembly segments is shocking. We will introspect our political actions,” Tripura Congress working president Ashis Kumar Saha said.

The BJP – for the first time – secured a majority in five gram panchayats and won 142 seats in several other gram panchayats and panchayat samitis in gram panchayat elections in July 2014.

Northeast India, considered a stronghold of the Congress as five of the eight states are currently ruled by the party, is about to fall into the lap of the BJP and its allies following the unprecedented Lok Sabha results in 2014.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, of the 25 parliamentary seats in eight northeastern states, the BJP and its allies got 10 seats and the Congress eight. In the 2009 polls, the Congress and its allies secured 14 seats across the region while the BJP and its allies managed to win six seats.

The BJP on its own bagged seven seats in Assam, one seat in Arunachal Pradesh while its allies — Naga People’s Front (NPF) in Nagaland and National People’s Party (NPP) in Meghalaya got one seat each in the two northeastern states.

Though the BJP could not win Lok Sabha seats, the party secured record number of votes in Left-ruled Tripura and the Congress-ruled Manipur and Meghalaya in the 16th Lok Sabha polls.

The BJP has also won 11 seats in the 60-member Arunachal Pradesh assembly, for which elections were held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha polls.

“Lack of trustworthy leadership, pro-people movement and weak organisational structure is making the Congress irrelevant in northeast India. Central leadership of the Congress must analyse the party’s actual base in rural, semi-urban and urban areas,” political analyst Tapas Dey said.

“The Tripura by-election results appeared to show a major dent in Congress support base, with its traditional votes getting divided between the Left Front and a resurgent BJP,” Dey told IANS.

“The writing on the wall had always been clear because fighting elections against an organised ruling party like the CPI-M is always difficult. But Congress leaders went to Delhi to agitate on flimsy and backdated issues, leaving the party candidates in the by-polls in the lurch. So this was expected,” Dey added.

The Congress faced the ignominy of losing security deposits in both Tripura assembly seats of Pratapgarh and Surma.

CPI-M central committee member Gautam Das said: “It is good that the Congress has paid for its campaign of calumny against the Left Front, particularly against Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. A matter of concern however is that the communal, pro-corporate and anti-poor BJP has moved ahead.”

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at

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