Amidst heightened speculation about an imminent change of guard in Tripura, the BJP government, headed by Biplab Kumar Deb, seems determined to leave a legacy of permanent trouble for would-be inheritors.
Nothing illustrates the point better than the confinement of 23 on-field surveyors of fabled poll specialist Prashant Kishore in an Agartala hotel over the past 36 hours. The team, comprising IITians and management trainees, had arrived in the state on July 21 and had been meeting people and leaders, including BJP MLAs Shankar Roy and Kalyani Roy and IPFT MLA Dhananjay Tripura, for detailed discussions. But on the evening of July 25, a large police force, backed by “relevant data on the I-Pac personages and their operational activities”, raided Hotel Woodland Park in the heart of Agartala town in the name of interrogation. But the raiding police personnel got admittedly befuddled by the ‘Queen’s English’ being rattled off by the confined I-Pac personnel. They are likely to be let off from confinement this evening.
The BJP regime, however, is unmindful of the state and countrywide uproar triggered by the unseemly and high-handed police action that has become the order of the day in Tripura since the party formed a government in the state with unrealistic and absurd promises made in the so-called ‘Vision Document’ released in 2018. Only one of the recklessly populist promises has so far been fulfilled, that too partially while the rest are now termed as mere expression of goodwill and not commitments. But the reign of lawlessness and authoritarian rule, bordering on dictatorship, has continued unabated.
It was only on July 9 that the houses of former CPI (M) minister and five-time MLA Pabitra Kar, who is also the state chief of ‘Kisan Sabha’, were raided and ransacked by police on cooked-up charges. All they could find was a few LIC certificates and bank account books. Earlier in 2019, another CPI (M) stalwart and former minister for two decades, Badal Chowdhury, was dragged from a private hospital to a police lock-up in west Agartala police station on a trumped up corruption case. Badal had undergone two successive by-pass surgeries and was in a critical condition while being hauled up by police from the nursing home but the police is yet to submit a charge-sheet in court. Similarly, former chief secretary Y P Singh and former chief engineer Sunil Bhowmik had been incarcerated in jail on cooked up cases, providing vicarious gratification to the Biplab Deb regime but there is no charge-sheet as yet against anyone of them.
The overall lawlessness worsened by jailing of social media activists in several cases and assaults on and harassment of journalists have raised serious questions on rule of law mandated by the constitution in Tripura. It was on September 11 last year that chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb himself threatened journalists in a public meeting at Sabroom, state’s southern most subdivision for reporting on COVID situation. Even though the independent media persons launched state-wide protests against the chief minister’s pronouncement, as many as 28 journalists have been assaulted and injured by miscreants sheltered by BJP across the state with impunity. Apart from this, even senior political leaders including former chief minister and incumbent leader of the opposition Manik Sarkar and his colleagues were attacked in Santir Bazar area of south Tripura on June 9 while Narendra Chandra Debbarma, supreme leader of IPFT, which is partner in the state’s coalition government, had not only been attacked but forcibly prevented from visiting his constituency at Takarjala in April by the unruly workers and supporters of newly formed ‘Tipra Motha’ party.
Significantly, there has been no arrest in connection with the attacks on political leaders and forcible closure after attacks on party offices of the opposition CPI (M) and Congress. Besides, a virtual anarchy has descended across the state, specially in the area under the autonomous district council (ADC). The opposition parties in the state have been waiting for some time for the corona curfew regime to end before launching statewide agitation on innumerable issues. Interestingly, the BJP leaders, including ministers, continue to organise and address public programmes in violation of COVID social distancing norms, but no opposition party is allowed to hold any programme citing compliance with COVID norms.
Rampant corruption and consistent violation of administrative norms, lack of jobs and fast eroding avenues of earning coupled with growing dissidence in the ruling party here, compelled the complacent central leadership to take note. It was on June 16-17 that a three-member central BJP team led by B L Santosh visited the state and took views of party leaders and MLAs regarding the state of affairs in Tripura. It is now in public domain that at least 23 of altogether 36 BJP MLAs had spoken against the style of functioning and overall performance of chief minister Biplab Kumar Deb. This report coupled with feedback sent by agencies made the central BJP leadership, including the party’s national president J.P. Nadda, bring about a change of guard in this north-eastern state with the consent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. According to reports from dissident faction of the ruling party, the removal of Biplab Kumar Deb from the post of chief minister is now only just a formality.