While the BJP registered a victory in Tripura Assembly elections to win a second consecutive term, the defeat of Deputy Chief Minister Jishnu Deb Varma, who is part of the party’s old guard, has come as a setback. All Ministers of Chief Minister Dr. Manik Saha’s Cabinet won except Mr. Deb Varma.
His defeat by a mere 858 votes in Charilam constituency has gone against the trend for BJP which managed to win several seats by small margins. Subodh Debbarma of the TIPRA Motha (Tipraha Indigenous Peoples Regional Party), led by the State’s royal scion Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma, defeated the veteran in a multi-cornered contest.
Interestingly, Mr. Deb Varma is also a senior member of the royal family. He is the TIPRA chief’s uncle.
TIPRA fought in 42 Assembly constituencies including all 20 tribal reserved seats. The party, despite nominating non-tribals, did not bag a single victory in general seats. It did not put up a candidate against Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretary Jitendra Choudhury who won from the Sabroom constituency in south Tripura which has a sizable tribal population.
“I am happy that the TIPRA chairman decided not to fight against me as a mark of respect. I thank him [Mr. Debbarma] for this,” Mr. Choudhury had said in his first election meeting at Sabroom.
Sabroom is an unreserved constituency despite having a significant tribal population and CPI(M) also has strong organisational roots in the area. This enabled Mr. Choudhury’s victory.
But his younger brother Pravat Chowdhury was not lucky enough to receive the same gesture from ‘Bubagra’ (as Mr. Debbarma is called here). He lost to Mailafru Mog of the BJP by a margin of only 547 votes in the Manu (South Tripura) constituency. TIPRA candidate Dhananjoy Tripura, who last year defected from the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), BJP’s junior partner, was third in a photo-finish. He received only around 1,200 votes less than the winner.
All three established parties, BJP, CPI(M), and Congress, blamed TIPRA as being the reason for the loss of their candidates in many constituencies. The BJP crossed the halfway mark and ended with 32 seats while its partner IPFT won just one.
TIPRA leaders say the results were not on par with their expectations of 20-21 seats as the regional party bagged 13 seats. But the number was still enough to give TIPRA the status of main Opposition party. It can even claim the post of Leader of Opposition.
From 16 seats in 2018, CPI(M) won just 11 while its alliance partner Congress bagged just three. Together they have cornered 14 seats.