In politics, it is not change that often comes as a surprise, but continuity. Tripura delivered a fifth straight win for the Left Front led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), with voters clearly reposing their faith in the course of peace and development set by Chief Minister Manik Sarkar. In an era when the term anti-incumbency is used to explain away any and all electoral defeats, the winning sequence of the Left Front might seem an exception. But then, people do not throw out a government on account of fatigue or boredom, but because of dissatisfaction with the governance. Mr. Sarkar, and before him Dasarath Deb, gave the people of Tripura clean, corruption-free governance with a twin-focus on conciliation and progress. The massive victory, with five-sixths of the seats in the 60-member Assembly, underscores the positive mandate for the Left. The Congress and its ally among the tribal population, the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra, put up a united fight, but the people evidently were not looking for an alternative. United or divided, the opposition did not matter. A government’s performance always trumps the opposition’s promise. In sharp contrast to the situation in Tripura, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) seems to have squandered much of the goodwill with which it came to power in West Bengal less than two years ago. In the three Assembly by-elections, the TMC won only one, but more importantly, it came third in the two seats it lost. The Congress, which had won all the three seats in the 2011 general election in alliance with the TMC, won one seat, and the Left Front the third. Clearly the signs are ominous: without the Congress as an ally, and at the head of a lacklustre administration, the Trinamool will not fare well.

Like Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya also voted for the incumbents. The Naga People’s Front won a third successive term, this time with a huge majority. The Congress, which won 22 seats in 2008, managed only eight now. Starved of power, the Congress appears to have weakened considerably. The secretive approach of the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre to the Naga talks might also have had a negative impact on the fortunes of the Congress; quite evidently, the State unit of the Congress could not politically leverage the situation. In Meghalaya, the Congress outperformed itself while still falling short of a simple majority. Unlike five years ago, when its Big Brother attitude united the entire opposition against it, the Congress will be hoping to provide a stable government. The abode of the clouds is the only silver lining for the Congress, but it is no more than a lining.

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