By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 11, Feb 2023, 16:50 pm IST | UPDATED: 11, Feb 2023, 16:51 pm IST
New Delhi: The three-cornered fight that is unfolding in the tiny but politically crucial state of Tripura will help the Left-Congress alliance in the upcoming assembly elections, CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said. The Communist leader told PTI that local-level leaders will make an assessment to see "who is best able to defeat the BJP", while looking at possible adjustments with other parties (such as Tipra Motha) in the run up to the polls slated for February 16. "The BJP (and its ally IPFT) had won 18 seats in the last elections out of 20 seats in the tribal areas," pointed out Yechury.
In the 60-member Tripura assembly, The BJP had won a total of 36 seats to form a government in 2018, with half of them coming from the tribal region.
"This time the Tipra Motha is at the forefront in tribal areas. The IPFT is now just a rump and BJP has given them only 5 seats. The advantage that BJP got last time won't be repeated. That should help the Left-Congress alliance," he explained.
Analysts here tend to agree with CPI(M)'s assessment that with the rise of the Tipra Motha, a party founded by Pradyut Kishore Manikya Debbarma, a scion of the former royal family of the state and a Tripuri, in tribal areas will be drastically reduced.
In the last elections, BJP had a 43.59-per cent vote share compared to CPI(M)'s 42.22 per cent and Congress's couple of percentage points. "We will gain from it," asserted Yechury.
In 2018, the BJP had stormed to power, gobbling up most of the Congress vote that in 2013 was nearly 37 per cent and partially into the CPI(M)'s vote bank, which was 48 per cent in 2013.
Tipra Motha had won a majority in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council in 2021, trouncing the BJP-supported IPFT. Since then its demand for Greater Tipraland has consolidated its hold over tribals and seen large-scale desertions from IPFT to its ranks.
With the expected reduction in tribal votes (which accounts for nearly a third of the state's total) for the BJP, the Left believes the alliance led by it stands to gain an advantage in the forthcoming elections.
The elections to this tiny state's assembly are considered important as political pundits see the possibility of a tough contest between the ruling party and the opposition, the first in a year of polls to elect state governments.
Till 2018, the electoral contest in the state was largely between the Congress and CPI(M), with smaller tribal parties playing minor but at times crucial roles.
With both the erstwhile Maharaja and Maharani, having been Congress MPs (Kirit Bikram Kishore Manikya Deb Barman Bahadur won three terms in Lok Sabha - 1967, 1977 and 1989 - while his wife Bibhu Kumari Devi won in 1981), the grand old party had a strong presence in the tribal belt.
However, legendary tribal Communist leaders like Dasarath Debbarma, who became a popular chief minister of the state and Jitendra Choudhury, a possible Left candidate for chief ministership in this election, have ensured that the CPI(M), too, has a huge presence in the tribal belt where Tripuris, Reangs, Jamatias, Chakmas, Mogs, Kuki and others live.
"At the ground level, who will be able to defeat the BJP, that assessment will be made by ground-level leaders," Yechury said, explaining his statement made earlier at a press conference that though there is no pre-poll adjustment with Tipra Motha, there can be a local-level understanding.
"That is why I said there is a likelihood at that point of time because the people will decide who can achieve this objective (of defeating the BJP)," he said, without committing to any further elaboration on ground-level adjustments that may be made.
"CPI(M) was the most consistent in opposing the repression unleashed on the people and that has been recognised by the people," Yechury said.
He also added that the "people have realised the necessity of unifying all secular and democratic forces in order to ensure the BJP government is removed."
The CPI(M), which suffered attacks on its party offices and workers in the past and desertions by some of its workers to BJP, has been more than visible in the assembly elections.
Speaking on the possibility of post-poll negotiations, Yechury said, "Let us see the first battle to be won is on the 16th (February, the election date). The second battle will emerge on March 2 (counting day). That we will meet then.
by : Priti Prakash
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