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Can TMC make inroads in Tripura?

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Google Oneindia News

Kolkata, Aug 17: Encouraged by a landslide victory in West Bengal's assembly elections held earlier this year, Trinamool Congress is now eying BJP-ruled Tripura where the party feels it can make strong headway in the next assembly elections slated for early 2023.

A host of TMC leaders including its national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee have been flying into Tripura to try and build a base and an organisation for the party which till now has been confined to Bengal.

Can TMC make inroads in Tripura?

The space ceded by the Left parties and Congress and the hope that the electorate is unsatisfied with status quo seems to have prompted the TMC to try and make inroads.

Its leaders in their appearance in the Northeastern state are trying out the tactics similar to BJP's in West Bengal elections - reiterating that they will be able to capture power with ease, that law and order has collapsed in the state, employment generation is at a low ebb and that the ruling BJP workers have unleashed a reign of terror.

The TMC rallies and programmes have been repeatedly targeted by a bunch of people whom the party alleges are 'BJP sheltered goons', though the charges have been denied by BJP. Banerjee and his convoys have been attacked at least thrice.

Two MPs of the party from West Bengal - Dola Sen and Aparupa Poddar were also attacked on Independence Day in South Tripura district. TMC, observers say, may get some mileage and sympathies for the "attacks", but to be able to translate this into votes, will have to build an organisation which till now is nascent.

Banerjee and TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh have been targeting leaders and workers fromBJP, especially former Congressmen within BJP, and CPI-M to woo them into the party fold. It is to be seen how far this attempt will be successful.

However, till now the number leaders who have crossed over have been few and far between. An ex-MLA from the Congress, Subal Bhowmick, who later joined BJP and again returned to Congress, and a former Congress minister Prakash Das have been among those few. Banerjee has however optimistically said that by the end of Decembe,r committees would be formed in all booths of the state.

BJP Tripura unit on August 13 observed 'Dhikkar Diwas' (Condemnation Day) to protest against what it calls a conspiracy by the Trinamool Congress to create an 'anarchic situation' in the state.

Tripura BJP chief spokesperson Subrata Chakraborty is obviously not amused. Chakraborty contends that TMC, a regional party in Bengal is trying to get the tag of a national party, by trying to foray into Tripura. To be a national party it requires at least six percent of the national vote. His colleague, Tripura BJP General Secretary Tinku Roy feels the Trinamool leaders are not in sync with the state's politics. A feeling which TMC leaders used to echo about BJP leaders visiting Bengal ahead of the elections.

"They stay at posh hotels and stage dramas one after another. They don't even have a basic idea of Tripura's geography".

He had also lashed out at the "Khela Hobe" slogan and said the most important democratic process cannot be compared with a game.

The TMC has had no electoral presence in Tripura since its inception in 1998. In 2016, six Congress MLAs led by former TPCC President Sudip Roy Barman had however defected to the party. These MLAs later joined BJP ahead of the 60-member assembly elections held in 2018 on the plea that they received no support from Mamata Banerjee's party during their crisis.

The TMC filed nominations in 24 seats in the 2018 assembly elections, but could not win a single seat and secured a mere 0.3 percent vote share.

The BJP, which won the election with 36 seats and 43.59 per cent vote share, formed the government, while the CPI (M), which had ruled the state for around 25 years, got 16 seats despite a 42 per cent vote share. The Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (IPFT), which has now allied with the BJP, won eight seats.

The state elections were fought largely between the Left Front and the BJP-IPFT alliance.

The Congress, which was the main opposition, crumbled as its support base was cannibalised by BJP in the last assembly elections.

However, to complicate matters, a newly emerged Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA), led by former state Congress president Pradyot Kishore Deb Barman, has come into the political jigsaw of the border state.
Deb Barman, who was the state unit president of Congress, quit the party in September 2019, citing differences with the high command.

A month later, he announced the name of his new outfit -- TIPRA, which was initially a social organisation but in 2020, was turned into a political party.

TIPRA surprisingly swept the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) elections in the first half of April this year by winning 18 of the 28 seats that went to the polls when the BJP won nine seats and one seat was bagged by an Independent candidate.

TIPRA's support obviously is the prize that many would try and gain given the electoral mathematics. TMC too is apparently trying to do just that.

The WB General Secretary of TMC Kunal Ghosh recently met the Chairman of the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) Pradyot Kishore Debbarma.

Thugh the leaders said that it was just a courtesy visit and no talks on forging analliance ahead the next elections were discussed, speculation remains rife.

Debbarma however has tantalisingly left the door open. "If any political party can give us a constitutional solution to the problems of indigenous people, ...we can forge an alliance with that party. (the alliance partner need to) agree in writing to a separate greater Tipraland by carving out the Tribal Council." he told reporters.

The TTAADC, constitutes two thirds of the state territory and is home to the indigenous people, who form one third of the state population.

"Tripura has around 30 to 31 per cent tribal population and around 7 to 8 per cent minority population. Of 60 seats, tribals dominate at least 20, while minorities are a deciding factor in at least five," pointed out Maloy Ghatak, a senior West Bengal minister, who recently visited the state.

However, while the arithmetic is known. It is not known whether the Tripura political problem will be that easy to crack. The leader of the opposition, Manik Sarkar recently said, "They (TMC) came to the state many times, but (always) returned empty hand".

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