Signals from Tripura

Civic elections were generally fought on the basis of local issues. They still are, but only to an extent as political parties pitch in with all their resources to prove their might and seek to outwit each other. Politics takes the upper hand over local issues. So too with Tripura, where the ruling BJP aggressively campaigned and swept the polls completely. Of the total 334 seats, the CPIM took three seats while Trinamool Congress and a local entity took one seat each; the rest went the BJP way. The three-year-old Biplab Kumar Deb-led BJP government was thought to be losing mass base and there were talks that it would not be able to return to power in 2023. It was also in this context that the present civic polls in Tripura were watched with considerable national interest. This win can at best boost the morale of the ruling establishment in the state but is no guarantee to an equally good public response to the BJP in the next assembly polls. The scenario could change either way as public mood is not a constant.
The Trinamool Congress has obviously taken a hit at a precise moment when it was trying to widen its base in the North-East, where the political sands are slippery and scope for power-play high. Money power largely dictates the political contours in this region. Yet, the message that the 2018 assembly polls gave in Tripura was that the people – mainly the tribal population – cannot be taken for granted. When the BJP rallied their support, two Bengali-centric political establishments there, namely the CPIM and the Trinamool Congress, were swept aside. The way these two political establishments ended up in the present civic polls is proof that the scenario has not changed. This, granted that the present civic elections were held in a fair manner. The allegations of malpractices that came from the CPIM and the Trinamool might have some grain of truth; or the two parties were taking advance bail from an impending defeat.
The message to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is that the road ahead for her to achieve her ambition(s) is paved with thorns. A normal growth for a party is one thing; “strengthening” a party with turncoats is a different matter. Tripura has sent a clear message to the TMC base in Kolkata. For Biplab Deb, the coming two years are important. It’s time for him to zealously build on the gains and work with more energy to improve the lot of the people, mainly the tribal population. They deserve a better deal.

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