Tripura to witness multi-corner contest in LS polls

By Sujit Chakraborty

April 9, 2019
Agartala:  With the ruling BJP emerging as a potent political force, Tripura will witness a multi-corner contest this time for the state’s two Lok Sabha seats, which were won either by Left parties or the Congress ever since the state was formed in 1972.

The Bharatiya Janata Party in alliance with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), wrested power in Tripura for the first time in the 2018 Assembly polls, delivering a major blow to the Left parties.

In the March 3, 2018, polls, the BJP secured 36 seats in the 60-member Assembly and managed to get 43.59 per cent of the valid votes, while the IPFT bagged eight seats and 7.38 per cent votes.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left Front won 16 seats and bagged 44.35 per cent votes while the Congress could manage only less than two per cent of the votes as most of their workers joined the BJP before the polls.

“With the change of leadership in the state, the Congress would surely improve its position in the coming Lok Sabha polls. However, the BJP, considering its last year’s assembly performance, is still in a commanding position,” political commentator Sanjib Deb told IANS.

Deb, who is the editor of Tripura’s leading English daily, the “North East Colors”, said: “Performance of the Left parties in the parliamentary polls is vague, even their success in the previous Lok Sabha polls in the state was unparalleled.”

Before the state’s formation, the Left won the Tripura West seat 12 times since the first Lok Sabha election took place in 1952 and the Congress four times. The Congress For Democracy, a breakaway faction of the party, secured the seat in 1977.

Since 1952, Left parties won the Tripura East Lok Sabha seats 11 times while the main opposition Congress secured the seat five times. The CPI-M has been winning the seat uninterruptedly since 1996.

Another renowned political analyst and writer, Subhash Das told IANS: “The IPFT had helped the BJP achieve the unexpected result in the Assembly polls. However, this time the two are contesting separately.”

“If the Lok Sabha elections become free and fair in Tripura, the CPI-M candidates in both the seats would get a significant percentage of votes.”

Rejecting the BJP’s appeal, the IPFT has fielded candidates for both the Lok Sabha seats.

IPFT President and Revenue Minister Narendra Chandra Debbarma is contesting from Tripura East, while the party’s youth leader Brishaketu Debbarma has been fielded from Tripura West.

“We are contesting the elections to raise our demand for statehood in Parliament. We are not snapping our political alliance with the BJP,” Debbarma told IANS.

Since 2009, the IPFT has been agitating for upgrading the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) to a separate tribal state. The TTAADC has jurisdiction over two-thirds of Tripura’s 10,491 area, home to over 12,16,000 people, mostly tribals.

All political parties, including the BJP, CPI-M and the Congress, have opposed the IPFT’s demand.

There are 13 candidates in the fray for the Tripura West seat and 10 in the Tripura East (reserved for tribals) constituency. Three women candidates (BJP, Congress and Independent) are also contesting the polls.

In the Tripura West seat, the ruling BJP has fielded party’s General Secretary Pratima Bhoumik, CPI-M re-nominated its sitting MP and trade union leader Sankar Prasad Datta and the Congress has nominated Subal Bhowmik, who was BJP’s Vice-President and had quit the party last month.

In the Tripura East seat, the three main contenders are CPI-M’s sitting MP and the party’s leading tribal leader Jitendra Chowdhury, BJP’s Rebati Tripura and Congress’ Maharaj Kumari Pragya Debbarman, the elder sister of state Congress chief Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarman.

Tripura West will go to the polls in the first phase on April 11 and Tripura East in the second phase on April 18.

A total of 26,05,325 voters, including 12,85,618 women, are eligible to vote in the two Lok Sabha constituencies. Over 69,000 first time voters have enrolled.