Year the Left bastion crumbled against saffron onslaught

Tripura Chief Minister and CPI(M) leader Manik Sarkar. (File Photo: IANS) by .
Tripura Chief Minister and CPI(M) leader Manik Sarkar.

History was created when the first straight poll battle between the country’s dominant Left party, the CPI-M, and the BJP saw the Narxist stronghold of Tripura crumble in the February 2018 assembly elections, after 25 years in power…writes Sujit Chakraborty

Tripura Chief Minister and CPI(M) leader Manik Sarkar. (File Photo: IANS) by .
Tripura Chief Minister and CPI(M) leader Manik Sarkar.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura) coalition swept the polls, winning 44 seats in the 60-member assembly. The BJP alone secured 36 seats while the IPFT, a tribal-oriented party, won eight seats. The CPI-M won the remaining 16.

Before the 2018 polls, neither the BJP nor the IPFT had won a seat in the assembly and their vote share was less than two or three per cent.

The 2018 polls were also a major setback for the Congress, which had ruled the state for 23 years (1959-1977 and 1988-1993). For the first time in 40 years, the key opposition party remained unrepresented in the assembly.

“The CPI-M’s tally (16 seats) would have much less if they had not got the support of the minorities, specially the Muslims,” renowned political analyst and writer Sekhar Datta told IANS.

Large-scale migration from the Congress to the BJP and numerous other political developments in Tripura in 2016 and 2017 set the stage for the first face-to-face battle between the BJP and the Left.

In October, the BJP swept the local bodies’ by-polls, winning 3,386 seats in different Panchayati Raj institutions. The CPI-M and Congress alleged that through intimidation, attacks and arson, BJP candidates had won 96 per cent of the unopposed seats and the remaining through large-scale rigging.

On the welfare front, the BJP-led government, in October, hiked the salaries and allowances of 219,454 government employees and pensioners in line with the 7th Central Pay Commission recommendations, fulfilling the saffron party’s pre-poll promise.

Hoever, the burning issue of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam is gradually spreading in Tripura as well, with several tribal-based parties, including alliance partner IPFT, agitating for an NRC update, with 1951 as the cut-off year.

And, in a major breather, the Supreme Court last month extended the services of 10,323 Tripura government teachers by two more years, as the state government had appealed for.

The year 2018 also saw a crusade against the drug menaces in Tripura.

Immediately after the BJP-IPFT government headed by Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb coming to power, the security agencies comprising state and central para-military forces, along with district administrations, began a war against the cultivation, trade and smuggling of drugs, especially cannabis (ganja).

Various security agencies in the last nine months have seized huge quantities of numerous drugs valued at over Rs 40 crore.

“Different security agencies in the past nine months have seized 65,000 kg of dry cannabis (ganja), over two crore ganja plants, one lakh bottles of various types of cough syrups (that serve as intoxicans), 1.65 lakh habit-forming tablets, 2,626 grams of brown sugar and heroin in Tripura,” officials of Tripura’s home and revenue departments said.

Deb, who pledged to make Tripura a “drug-free state”, said : “During the short period of nine months, over 200 people who are involved in the drug menace had to go to jail. As the drug related activities were reduced, 40 per cent atrocities on women and 10 per cent incidents of rape of young girls have been decreased.”

On the security front, there were no incidents of militancy for the fourth consecutive year in a state once devastated by terrorism. However, various crimes, specially rioting have moderately increased.

According to an official document of Tripura police, there were 78 and 124 instances of rioting in 2016 and 2017 respectively but this shot up to 245 in 2018.

Former Chief Minister and CPI-M politburo member Manik Sarkar, while evaluating the governance of the coalition government, said that its dictatorial and illegal acts, like bulldozing of hundreds of opposition party offices, houses and assets belonging to Left party members and supporters are creating “total unprecedented anarchy” in the state.

“There is a huge crisis of food and jobs in Tripura specially in the hilly and interior areas. The state’s economy is entirely shattered. Without dealing with the basic crisis, the BJP government is only bulldozing opposition party offices and continuing with its undemocratic activities,” Sarkar told IANS.

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