Left citadel Tripura is all set to go to polls in February 2018 and BJP is leaving no stone unturned to win the elections here. A left-dominated state, Tripura is being ruled by CPM for the past 25 years with chief minister Manik Sarkar sitting at the helm. Even in the past, the state has seen the change of power between Congress and the Left parties. However, BJP has never been in the electoral scene here. Then what makes the party so strong in the state that it has become the prime opposition this time? Also, what are the demographics? Let’s have a look at factors which matter the most in Tripura elections 2018:
Left vs Right in Tripura, for the first time
Though India’s Right wing and Left wing parties are each other’s arch ideological rivals, coincidentally, they have never been caught in a direct electoral battle in country’s 64-year election history. Tripura will be the first time when Communist Party of India (Marxist) will face a direct challenge from Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-led Bharatiya Janata Party.
Brief political history of Tripura
The State of Tripura attained full statehood in the Indian Union in 1972. The State Legislative Assembly got 60 seats according to the Constitution and the first elections were held in March 1972. Since then, Tripura has been switching governments between the Congress and the CPM. However, in the last two decades, Congress has not been able to get hold of power in the state and the Left has held nearly undisputed sway. The CPM, under the leadership of Manik Sarkar, has won 49, 46 and 38 seats in the 60-member Assembly in last three assembly elections.
Issues: Tipraland and Ethnic Tensions
Demands for a separate Tipraland has remained the key issue in elections over the years. Tribal groups led by Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) Tipraland (also spelt Twipraland) have been demanding the formation of a separate state out of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) areas. The TTAADC areas constitute two-third of the state territory and is the home to tribals, who form one-third of the population.
In July, the IPFT carried out massive protests in the state. The protestors blocked the vital NH8, the state’s lifeline, and the lone railway line for more than 10 days. The protest led to an acute shortage of essential items and much hardship to the people. Earlier, major political parties including CPM, Congress and the BJP had rejected IPFT’s demands. However, the BJP is fighting the next elections in alliance with the IPTF. Ethnic tensions between tribal and non-tribal population is another issue in Tripura.
BJP’s popularity surge – real or fake?
BJP is making unprecedented claims of winning elections in the state being ruled by CPI(M) Manik Sarkar for the past 25 years. The state, set to go to polls in March, has seen a number of leader turning to BJP. Currently, BJP has seven legislative assembly members here – six of them defected from TMC, won and fought elections on Congress tickets. Also in December, Congress MLA Ratan Lal Nath and president of Tripura unit of Pradesh Mohila Congress Himani Debbarm joined BJP. Ram Madhav, General Secretary of the BJP, inducted Nath into the party by handing over the saffron flag. Also, 1,000 people from 350 families from West Tripura district became BJP volunteers in presence if state party chief Biplab Kumar Deb.