Editorial

Right behind? on Tripura Assembly election

Voters in Tripura once again came out in large numbers for the Assembly election on Sunday, with initial estimates putting the turnout at almost 90%. This is close to the 91.82% turnout in the previous Assembly election in 2013 and more than the 84.72% for the 2014 Lok Sabha election. One explanation for these high figures is that the electorate is more organisationally mobilised than in other States. The CPI(M)-led Left Front has been in power in Tripura since 1993, and until recently another victory for the Left Front would have been regarded as a given. After all, the LF’s popularity had steadily increased in its years in power, peaking in 2013 with a 52.33% vote share and a harvest of 50 of the 60 Assembly seats. Its support base has encompassed both tribal and non-tribal regions of the small State. This is largely due to the good work done by the government in improving primary health and education in Tripura; as a result the State has improved its human development indices. Apart from the delivery of essential welfare services, the personal popularity of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who has been in office since 1998, has helped the LF retain power. But if pointers from the campaign phase are anything to go by, the Sarkar government seems to be facing a stiff challenge from the BJP, a non-player in the electoral area until now, sensing an opportunity to make good.

Lack of diversification in a largely agrarian and forestry dominated economy and high unemployment levels among the youth have given the opposition some talking points. The BJP sought to tap what it believes is a latent yearning for change, through its slogan, “Chalo Paltai” (let us flip). After its triumph in Assam, the BJP has grown more confident of making serious inroads into the Northeast; its expansion in some of the States has been aided by a weakening of the Congress in the region. In Tripura, the BJP made no secret of attempting to occupy the opposition space by reaching out to traditional Congress voters. The shift of a large number of Congress legislators and candidates to the BJP is a result of the organisational decay in the former. The Congress had traditionally been stronger in the non-tribal regions and aligned with the ethnic tribal parties such as the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura in its electoral challenges to the LF. The IPFT and other tribal groups have hitched their wagon to the BJP this time round. In trying to match the Left in terms of organisational muscle, the BJP banked on the RSS and the larger Parivar to provide it the heft it needed in the campaign. But the fact is that in the 2013 Assembly election, the BJP could win a mere 1.53% of the vote. It will have to register a spectacular increase in vote share to even be a strong opposition, let alone form the government.

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2020 2:31:50 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/right-behind/article22800657.ece

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