By Ashna Patil
Former Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi admitted on Wednesday that forming an alliance with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI-M] is the best shot Congress has at winning the February 18 Assembly elections in Tripura. The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) has been steadily advancing and garnering support in the state, primarily because it is ruling at the centre. In a state as small as Tripura, that makes a difference. It is also channeling a lot of funds towards these elections, and the campaigners are some of the most influential people in the party- amongst whom are Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, and BJP president Amit Shah. The party is clearly serious about wanting a win.
Political dynamics of the state
CPI-M has been in power in Tripura for a while, but discontent is slowly seeping in now. With aggressive BJP foray into the state this year, the public has greater options. BJP is also actively trying to woo Tripura King, Maharaja Kirit Pradyot Deb Barman Manikya, whose family has historically supported Congress. “My only response is that I want to put up a fight against the Communists. They have systematically destroyed the heritage and culture of tribals in the state. Economic development barely exists, especially for tribals, and unemployment levels are high. Tripura used to be the most developed state in the North East… now we are the most backward,’’ he says. Deb Barman has political clout, and his decision to side with BJP would certainly result in an increase of support for it. If, however, Congress decides to form an alliance with CPIM- the party he is frustrated with- he may believe it would balance matters out and support them, which would prove to be a blow to BJP.
The way ahead for Congress
Congress scored a victory in the November 2017 by-polls in the Dakshin Dhaniacherra village, beating CPI-M by 16 votes. A small area, but it shows that the people still have some faith in the party. In the fight between the right and the left, its presence is often overlooked- a problem that can also be can be reduced in intensity by an alliance. Congress does not have the organisational strength to go to rural areas and woo voters, which is why most of its voters are urban or semi-urban. With the CPIM, this becomes possible.
BJP has also allied itself with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) to gain the tribal vote which accounts for 31% in the state. On the flip side, this alienates people who consider IPFT to be insurgents. Congress can capitalise on this mistrust, reducing the power held by BJP.
Problems for the BJP
The saffron party, additionally, is failing to live up to its promises in neighbouring states- it failed to provide Assam with a separate Bodoland and the Naga accord is all but empty. As Gogoi said, “This is important at a time when the BJP has created so much polarisation, divisiveness, and tension in the country. It becomes important at such a time to form a secular alliance with whomsoever wants to join.” It not only makes strategical sense for Congress to team up with CPIM to create a dent in the BJP’s vote count but also acts as an opportunity to ideologically separate itself from the image the latter has created.
Featured Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
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