Mukul Roy, former BJP national vice president, soon after returning to the Trinamool Congress last Friday (June 11), made a call to Tripura, raising the prospect of a new political realignment in the tiny north-eastern state.
The TMC sources said the veteran politician, well-known for his backchannel-negotiation skills, spoke to Sudip Roy Barman, the leader of the disgruntled group in the BJP legislature party.
The call set the alarm bell ringing within the BJP. The party on Wednesday (June 16) rushed a three-member central leadership team headed by B L Santhosh to Agartala for a “patch-up” with the rebels.
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Roy Barman, son of former Tripura Chief Minister Samir Ranjan Barman, has led the dissident group to Delhi on several occasions to plead with the BJP central leaders to oust incumbent Chief Minister Biplab Deb. Their previous bid was in October last year. “We are about 12 MLAs who have apprised the party leadership about dictatorship and poor governance of the CM, which in turn has made the party very unpopular,” Roy Barman had said in October.
But their grievances against Deb in the past did not find favour with the BJP central leadership, pushing them into isolation within the party. Roy Barman was dropped from the Deb ministry, where he was holding the crucial portfolio of health and family welfare in 2019.
Even in the party organization, he was not given any responsibility, clearly indicating that the state BJP was not willing to reconciliation with the rebels. There are reportedly at least 15 MLAs, including some legislators of the BJP’s alliance partner, in the rebel group christened as “reformist.”
The BJP has 36 legislators in Tripura while its ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) has 8 MLAs. The CPI (M) has 16 legislators in the 60-member House.
The TMC is trying to tap this rebel group in a bid to rebuild its organization that was ironically dismantled after Roy Barman had quit the party in 2017 with five other MLAs to join the BJP ahead of the 2018 assembly elections.
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Roy Barman had joined the TMC only a year earlier from the Congress at the behest of Mukul Roy. Incidentally, Roy had also quit the TMC to join the BJP in 2017.
“If we want we can bring down the BJP government in Tripura within a month,” claimed TMC spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya.
The newly anointed national general secretary of the West Bengal’s ruling party Abhishek Banerjee recently announced the party’s expansion plan beyond Bengal.
The TMC leadership has identified Bengali-majority Tripura as one of the most fertile states outside Bengal for the growth of its twin-flowers, the party’s poll symbol.
The TMC earlier this week released a video song ‘Khela Hobe Khela Hobe Tripura Te Khela Hobe (the game is on in Tripura)’. It’s a Tripura-centric twist to the party’s campaign song coined for the West Bengal assembly elections.
The rebellion against Deb got further momentum after the BJP’s alliance partner IPFT’s poor showing in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) elections in April this year.
The IPFT drew a blank while the BJP managed to win only 9 seats in the 30-member council. The council consists of 28 elected and two nominated members.
The newly floated Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) Motha of royal scion Pradyot Kishore Debbarma swept the poll bagging 18 seats. The one remaining seat went to an independent candidate.
The result was particularly shocking for the IPFT, which has lost ground in its bastion, compelling the party to reassess its alliance with the BJP.
“Right now our equation with the BJP is okay. But we are observing the situation,” said IPFT MLA Mevar Kr Jamatia over the phone. He, however, refused to further discuss the political development in the state following the overtures made by the TMC.
Roy Barman further fanned the political speculation with a cryptic comment to media: “As of today in BJP, but I cannot predict tomorrow. I have not seen tomorrow.”
He also admitted that the council elections result showed “something is wrong and the party needs to introspect where it has gone wrong.”
“We have apprised the central leadership of our assessment…That needed to be sorted out within the party. I am not going to discuss that in the media,” Roy Barman told The Federal, denying that he is in touch with the TMC.
Tripura BJP sources, however, said that after TMC’s bid to woo the rebels, the party stirred into action to reach out to the rebel group to placate them. “A group of senior BJP leaders headed by Santhosh ji met the rebel group on Wednesday evening (June 16),” a senior Tripura BJP leader said.