Tripura Assembly election an uphill battle for BJP

Unlike the 2018 edition, which also featured three major parties or fronts, there is an air of unpredictability over this year’s election

Updated - February 16, 2023 12:57 am IST

Published - February 04, 2023 10:59 pm IST - AGARTALA

BJP supporters attend a rally addressed by party president J.P. Nadda at PWD ground, Kumarghat, in Unakoti on February 3, 2023.

BJP supporters attend a rally addressed by party president J.P. Nadda at PWD ground, Kumarghat, in Unakoti on February 3, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

The triangular contest between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Left Front-Congress, and the Tipra Motha has created an air of unpredictability over the results of the February 16 Assembly election in Tripura, as it could be a tough contest for the former which looks to retain power in the State.

The BJP’s big splash made the 2018 elections the first triangular contest among major political parties or blocs in Tripura, where it hitherto used to be a bipolar battle between the Left Front and the Congress despite the presence of small regional players.

Cut to 2023, the Left Front and the Congress are allies while a new regional party, the Tipra Motha, has virtually taken up the space the BJP vacated as the prime challenger five years ago.

The BJP and its tribal-based ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), the Tipra Motha and the Left-Congress combine will now face-off in 42 seats in the polls. While the BJP-IPFT and the Left Front-Congress alliances are contesting in all the 60 seats in the Assembly, the Tipra Motha has fielded candidates in 42.

The Trinamool Congress had hoped to make it a quadrangular contest but its 28 candidates have reportedly been hamstrung by the party’s primary focus on Meghalaya, which goes to the polls on February 27.

Anti-BJP alliance

State CPI(M) secretary Jitendra Chowdhury said the Left Front and the Congress struck the seat-sharing deal to prevent the anti-BJP votes from splitting. “We tried to bring the Tipra Motha on board for the same reason. Although it did not work out, we hope to have some kind of understanding so that the strongest candidates – whether of Motha or Congress or Left Front – win,” he said.

The BJP, too, had tried to forge an alliance with the Tipra Motha but its founder and royal scion, Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma, spurned the offer for not getting any written assurance on the party’s demand for a Greater Tipraland State. 

The Tipra Motha holds considerable clout in 20 constituencies reserved for the Scheduled Tribes. Its move to contest 22 of the 40 non-tribal seats appears to have upset the calculations of both the BJP and the Left Front-Congress combine.

The threat from Tipra Motha has been apparent from the BJP’s campaign designed for the 40 non-tribal seats.

For instance, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma warned the voters against opting for the Tipra Motha. “Voting for the Motha holds no meaning as it is not in power at the Centre and cannot form a government,” he said.

State BJP spokesperson Nabendu Bhattacharjee discounted the theory of anti-BJP or pro-BJP votes in the polls. “The people are with us. They know what they endured during the 25 years of Left Front reign and the Congress rule earlier, and they are unlikely to risk it for a new party,” he said.

Insisting that his party’s penetration would show on the day of counting (March 2), Mr. Debbarma said there won’t be any division of anti-BJP votes because of the Tipra Motha. “The people have made up their mind to vote for a party they think can defeat the BJP,” he said.

Sekhar Dutta, an Agartala-based political scientist agreed that the Tipra Motha could damage the prospects of the BJP to some extent. “The Motha may take away some votes of the Left Front-Congress unless they work out a strategy between them, but its challenge in the non-tribal seats is likely to affect the BJP more,” he said.

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