Agartala: The CPI-M is confident of retaining power in its bastion of Tripura in Sunday’s assembly elections and achieving a turnaround in the Left movement across the country, though the BJP is battling tooth and nail to oust the Left Front government.
In India’s 65-year-long electoral history, the country’s dominant Left party, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), has never been in direct confrontation with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
However, political developments in Tripura in 2016 and 2017 have set the stage for their first face-to-face battle as the saffron outfit has emerged as the key opposition party in this Communist-ruled north-eastern state.
All the top leaders of the CPI-M, BJP, Congress and Trinamool Congress participated in the hectic two-month long poll campaign that ended on Friday afternoon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and the party’s general secretary in-charge of north-eastern states Ram Madhav, the chief ministers of five BJP-ruled states, the CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, and many party politburo members — including Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat, Biman Bose — have addressed a record number of election rallies since December.
Hours before the end of campaign, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and other central leaders boosted the campaign of the Congress party, which has been hit by large numbers of top state party leaders, seven MLAs and huge numbers of workers that have joined the BJP since last year.
Trinamool Congress, which allied with two tribal-based parties — the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura and the National Conference of Tripura — boosted its poll campaign by roping in senior leaders and film stars from West Bengal.
Balloting will take place in 59 of the 60 assembly constituencies. Polling has been deferred in Charilam due to the death of CPI-M candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma. It will be held on March 12.
In all 292 candidates, including 23 women and many independents, would be testing their electoral fortunes in Sunday’s election. Counting will take place on March 3.
Tripura became a full-fledged state in January 1972 along with Meghalaya and Manipur, and the CPI-M dominated Left Front has in power since 1978 except for 11 years (1972-1977 and 1988-1993) when the Congress and the breakaway Congress led by five chief ministers ran the state.
During 1988-1993, Congress in alliance with the tribal-based political party Tripura Upajati Juba Samity governed the state.
Congress, which since 1983 fought the elections in alliance with the tribal-based party, is facing the poll battle alone this time.
The BJP, which previously fought elections alone, has aligned with the tribal-based party Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) for Sunday’s election. The IPFT has been agitating for a separate state containing the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council since 2009. The demand, however, has been rejected by all political parties.
The ruling CPI-M has fielded 57 candidates, leaving one seat each to its Left Front partners — the Communist Party of India, the Forward Bloc and the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
The BJP is contesting 51 seats and has left nine seats for ally IPFT.
Congress fielded candidates for all 60 constituencies. However, the party’s official nominee, Sukumar Chandra Das, for Kakraban-Shalgarha assembly seat (Scheduled Caste reserved seat), withdrew his nomination and joined the BJP. The Trinamool Congress has fielded 24 candidates.