Saffron surge in Tripura

BJP ended the Communist rule in the Northeastern state

Business & Politics

March 6, 2018

/ By / New Delhi

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Victory in Tripura for BJP

Victory in Tripura for BJP

The stupendous victory in Tripura for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has come at a time when it is facing reversal in its political fortunes in North India. More than half a dozen factors helped the party oust the Left Party rule in the north-eastern state.

Communist rule in Tripura, a state in North-East India which borders Bangladesh, Mizoram and Assam, ended as the BJP-led alliance swept the polls, winning 43 seats. This has brought to an end the unchallenged rule of the Left and Manik Sarkar, reputed as India’s poorest Chief Minister. Sarkar became Chief Minister in 1998. Though the Communist Party of India won 16 seats, its vote share was intact at 42. 7 per cent while the BJP’s vote share was 43 per cent.

Another jewel in the saffron crown

The victory in Tripura for BJP is part of the winning spree that began four years back.  Since 2014 elections were held in 23 states, out of which BJP won in 12 states —Arunachal Pradesh (2014), Jharkhand (2014), Maharashtra (2014), Haryana (2014), Himachal (2017), Sikkim (2014), Assam (2016), Uttar Pradesh (2017) , Uttarakhand (2017), Goa (2017), Gujarat (2017) and Manipur (2017). Interestingly, the BJP has shot into the limelight in Tripura from nowhere.

In the 2013 assembly elections, when the BJP had contested 50 seats, all its candidates forfeited their deposits on 49 seats. The CPI-M (Communist Party of India (Marxist)) had won 49 of the 55 seats it contested for, while the Congress managed to win 10 out of 48 seats it contested for. Nevertheless, more than a dozen factors were at play, responsible for the saffron surge in Tripura.

Winning Tribal Votes: What gave a boost to the BJP and its alliance partners is their winning the confidence and votes of tribals. Just a month before the elections, the BJP tied up withthe Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) which has been spearheading the movement for Tipuraland.  BJP has made it clear that it did not back a separate tribal state, so as to not lose the majority Bengali vote in the state.

Anti-Incumbency: Ruled by Communist Party of India for more than 25 years Tripura was in a mood to change the government. Though it ranked high in education and health among Indian states, Tripura was plagued by a high rate of unemployment. According to the state economic survey, about 18 per cent of the 3.7 million population migrates as far as Kolkata, Chennai, Pune and Bengaluru in search of better job opportunities. What further worsened the situation for the Manik Sarkar government was the Supreme Court upholding the verdict of the Tripura High Court that had terminated 10,000 school teachers, citing irregularities.

More Salaries, Perks promised: The non-implementation of the 7th Pay Commission in Tripura fuelled anger against the communists. Salaries to government workers are paid on the basis of the 4th Pay Commission. This issue found prominent space in the BJP’s Vision Document for the state, its poll platform as well as the speeches of its leaders— from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National President Amit Shah to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Now, the state government employees can hope for a bonanza in their salaries, based on the implementation of the 7th Pay Commission recommendations.

High Voltage Campaigns: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National president Amit Shah led the high-voltage campaigns and crisscrossed the state and gave the call for change and development. ‘Chalo Paltai’ ( Let’s Change) was their rallying call against the Left. Interestingly, Modi appealed to the people while addressing four rallies, urging them to pick “HIRA (H for highway, I for Internet way, R for roadways and A for airways) instead of Manik”, using a word play between hira (diamond) and manik (gem). Modi and his cabinet ministers frequented the region to announce policies for the people.

Starting from scratch:  With little presence at the grassroots level, the BJP worked very hard to ensure that it gives a tough fight to Manik Sarkar. Besides Amit Shah, BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav and Assam Chief Minister and coordinator of the Northeast Democratic Alliance (NEDA)  Himanta Biswa Sarma, strategised the road to victory. Sarma through NEDA has been successfully dismantling the incumbent government in North East since he became Assam Chief Minister in May 2016. Except for Congress-ruled Mizoram, which goes to election by end of this year, all the seven out of eight states are currently under BJP rule.

Success for saffron: The credit for the successful saffron surge in Tripura goes to Sunil Deodhar who was the campaign manager of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his election from Varnasi, in 2014. Deodhar was appointed in charge of Tripura in 2014 itself. He stayed in the state for 500 days and worked to implement the strategy.

Political defections: Congress, which was the principal opposition in the state, drifted slowly. In fact, as many as six Congress MLAs (Member of the Legislative Assembly) first joined the Trinamool Congress in 2016. A year later, these MLAs had voted for NDA (National Democratic Alliance founded by BJP) presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind inviting expulsion from the party. They joined the BJP along with workers.

All this enabled the BJP-led alliance to win not only the urban areas around Agartala (Congress bastions) but also huge swathes of forested tribal areas (Left bastions) across south, central and eastern Tripura, apart from eight seats won by its ally, IPFT.

Nationally, the Northeastern states of India account for 25 Lok Sabha (Lower house of India’s bicameral Parliament) seats. NDA won only 10 of these in 2014. For 2019, BJP will be hoping to offset possible relative losses in say, North India. Let us wait and watch.



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