The tiny North- Eastern state of Tripura, the third smallest state in our country, has never hogged so much media limelight ever during the last seven decades of independent India. Being a part of the neglected seven sisters of the North East during the reign of the previous regime in our country, Tripura started finding itself in the newsrooms, courtesy a BJP victory in 2018 Assembly elections in the state.
Tripura is bordered by Bangladesh on three sides and consequently, is a home to vast majority of Bengali Hindus who migrated there on or before the partition of 1947 and the Noakhali hindu massacre of 1946 by the radical Islamist marauders of East Bengal (now Bangladesh). The Bengali community constitutes more than 70% of the population of Tripura, the rest comprising of the tribes – Tipras, Reang, Jamatia, Chakma, Halam, Noatia, Mog, Kuki, Garo, Munda, Lushai, Orang, Santhal, Uchai, Khasia, Bhil, Cheimal, Bhutia, and Lepcha. Since the Bengali population predominates the demographics of the state, it is known as little Bengal. The Muslim population of the state is 8.6% as per the 2011 census.
The quintessential Bengali is unfortunately, identified with the Leftist ideology, with political parties/formations subscribing to the said ideology ruling the state of West Bengal for the last 44 years. Hence, such parties/formations believed that they would be able to rule Tripura too, being a Bengali majority state. Emulating their victory in West Bengal in 1977, the Left Front came to power in Tripura in 1978. However, they didnot enjoy an uninterrupted reign in little Bengal as they did in West Bengal and was ousted by the Congress and their allies in 1988. They again came back to power in 1993 and ruled for 25 years to be beaten fair and square by the BJP, a relatively new political force in the state, in 2018.
However, the Tripura civic bodies – 334 seats of the urban local bodies including the Agartala Municipal Corporation (51 wards), 13 municipal councils and six nagar panchayats in the state remained under Left rule, which the formation had won in 2015.
The Left Front were the major political opponents of the ruling BJP and had hoped to retain the civic bodies raking up Bengali leanings towards the left.
What made the civic polls of 2021 more interesting was the dramatic entry of TMC – the ruling dispensation of Bengal in the fray. Over the last few months, all the prominent TMC leaders including Abhisekh Banerjee, MP and TMC General Secretary, Firhad Hakim, TMC Minister, the new entrants to their ranks, Sushmita Dev and Babul Supriyo, the Youth Wing General Secretary, Sayoni Ghosh and TMC spokesman, Kunal Ghosh have all been visiting the state on a regular basis, in what is believed to be an election campaign worth crores. The campaign wasn’t incident free – there were regular doses of drama, including arrest of TMC leader, Sayoni Ghosh on a charge of attempt to murder and creating arson, Babul Supriyo’s ire on being bombarded with his own song sung during his BJP days, castigating the TMC.
There were constant allegations of violence against the BJP on the TMC cadres in collusion with the police– it seems the TMC tried to frame the BJP in Tripura for the very excesses that they commit on the BJP in West Bengal. The TMC even went to the Supreme Court, first to stall the elections and after the polls were held, to stop the declaration of results, only to see their cases being dismissed by the apex court.
The Civic Poll results declared on the 28th of November witnessed a clean sweep by the ruling BJP who won 329 out of the 334 Municipal wards with 1 going to the CPM, 1 to the TMC and 1 to the Tipra party – 112 seats went to the BJP uncontested. The results of the state capital, Agartala Municipal Corporation (AMC) bore evidence to the BJP’s dream run, where the party won all thr 51 seats with their opponents, the Left and the TMC failing to open their accounts.
The saffron surge continued in the other municipalities too – BJP won all the 15 seats in Khowai, 17-seats in Belonia, 15 seats in Kumarghat and 9 seats in Sabroom Nagar Panchayat. It also made a clean sweep in the 25-ward Dharmanagar Municipal Council, 15-seat Teliamura Municipal Council and 13-member Amarpur Nagar Panchayat.
BJP bagged 13 seats in each of the Sonamura Nagar Panchayat and Melaghar Nagar Panchayat, which too, became opposition-less. It also bagged the 11-member Jirania Nagar Panchayat. It was in the Ambassa Municipal Council that the opposition could get a semblance of a foothold with the CPI-M and the TMC winning 1 seat each and the independent candidate winning 1 against the 12 seats won by BJP in the 15 member council.
Even while most sane political pundits are predicting ‘Khela sesh’ or ‘Game Over’ for the TMC outside Bengal, with their Tripura debacle, despite the tall claims made by their big leaders including Abhisekh Banerjee, who had stated that BJP won’t be able to open their account in the AMC. They had even published a separate manifesto for the AMC with the usual promise of freebies, which didnot cut any ice in Agartala. It is evident that the Bengali community of Tripura, almost all of whom hail from Noakhali and Comilla with wounds of unfathomable torture meted out to their forefathers by the radicals in East Bengal, still fresh in their minds, are in no mood to entertain the TMC, the ones known for nurturing and appeasing similar radicals to this day, for votes, or their freebies at the cost of their state’s well being.
The TMC, however, are in no mood to relent. In collusion with their loyal media, their leaders are claiming moral victory by ‘a new force’ with that solidarity seat and a vote percentage which is a trifle higher than the Left – 20.22% against the Left’s 18.47%. Even though, it’s the Left which is technically in second position with 3 seats against the TMC’s 1, the TMC loyalists can’t stop celebrating their solitary seat, despite being bulldozed by the BJP in Tripura, whom they were chiding till date, armed with their landslide victory in West Bengal.
The statement made by the TMC leaders and their loyal media that the TMC is an absolutely new force in Tripura is factually incorrect and untrue. The TMC had started making their foray in Tripura right after their victory in West Bengal in 2011. The TMC supremo and the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee had stated then that out of all the goodies that she has to offer, Tripura will get half. The TMC contested the 2018 Assembly elections too, with their alliance partner, NPT, but drew a blank.
Prior to that, they had poached upon 6 Congress MLAs to become the major opposition in the state. Out of these 6, 2 joined the BJP in 2016 – one being the maverick BJP leader, Sudip Roy Burman, who keeps making overtures towards the opposition parties to intimidate the BJP at times. Even though they stated TMC’s cozying up to the Congress for their decision, the TMC blames Mukul Roy, who was in charge of Tripura then for the same, more so when he joined the BJP in 2017. Hence the TMC couldnot sustain in Tripura, only to re-emerge in 2021 buoyed with their Bengal victory. Though most of their support base being flown in from Bengal, with miniscule support in the state, they exuberated confidence, only to bite the dust post the civic polls. Hence such false claims of being the ‘New kid on the block’.
In fact, it is the BJP which is relatively new, the 2018 Assembly elections being their first major or serious attempt at making a mark in the Tripura Assembly and they tasted blood at the first go. The instant Civic Polls were, similarly, first time for them as far as Civic bodies are concerned. Hence it’s full marks to the Tripura CM, Biplab Deb and the Tripura BJP for winning it big, raising the spirits of the Bengali nationalists, who were crestfallen post the West Bengal Assembly Poll loss. It seems that Tripura is in no mood to entertain the ‘Bohiragoto’ (outsider) TMC at any cost.