Tripura: Poll fever intensifies ahead of pitched triangular battle

BJP, Left-Congress combine and TIPRA-Motha have upped the ante even as poll violence continues

2023 Tripura polls, Mithun Chakraborty campaigning for BJP
A not-so-confident BJP is bringing in star campaigners like Bollywood actor Mithun Chakraborty, BJP leaders like Amit Shah, JP Nadda and Smriti Irani to campaign in the poll-bound state. Pic: PTI

With just seven days to go for polling in the election to the Tripura legislative Assembly, poll campaigns by the contesting political parties have gained momentum, even as poll violence incidents also saw an increase. CPI(M) and Congress offices were ransacked and workers  injured in cases of poll violence in the state.

On Wednesday, it was the BJP at the receiving end, when Congress and Forward Bloc workers were charged with burning down a BJP election office, and attacking workers belonging to the party.

Last Saturday, Tripura chief electoral officer Kirankumar Dinkarrao Gitte said that 27 people have been arrested till that day, and at least 36 cases were registered for pre-poll violence cases since the Assembly elections were announced on January 18.

Poll campaigns hots up


As the poll fever rose in the state, the BJP focussed on pushing their campaign – ‘double-engine government for development’ – warning voters that voting for the CPI(M), Congress or TIPRA Motha would bring back violence. They also focussed on misgovernance by previous regimes.

Addressing election rallies in Satir Bazar in southern Tripura and Khowai in Western Tripura, Union home minister Amit Shah said that during the Congress and the Left regimes, corruption, militancy, violence, poverty, and misgovernance had devastated the lives of the people in the state.

Addressing rallies at Kailasahar and Agartala, Union defence minister Rajnath Singh questioned Pradyot Manikya Debbarman’s move to launch his tribal party “when there are so many parties in Tripura.”

The BJP sees both the CPI(M)-Congress alliance and TIPRA Motha equally as threats, and is targeting both. The CPI(M)-Congress campaign has focused on BJP’s shortcomings in governance, and on an inclusive development theme.

The two parties have been campaigning on what they see as the failed promises of the BJP, and ridiculing the ruling party for changing chief ministers, and on the gaffes of the former chief minister Biplab Deb.

BJP is the target

Pradyot Debbarman of TIPRA Motha appears to be gunning more for the BJP than the Left-Congress alliance, mocking the ruling party at a public meeting for bringing the “Bengal Cobra”, actor Mithun Chakraborty to campaign for them.

The Left-Congress have been softer on TIPRA Motha than on the BJP. It needs to be noted that Pradyot Debbarman has been a traditional Congressman, and left the party in a huff since he believed he was being sidelined by the central leadership, who was favouring the Bengali faction in the party.

Whatever may be his fate at the hustings, Pradyot Debbarman is likely to be the kingmaker in this state. The Left-Congress combine, which is keen on eliminating the BJP from the state, would be more amenable to his demands rather than that of the BJP.

BJP on a tricky wicket

All the three key contesting forces are drawing large crowds at their meetings. This is understandable in the BJP’s case since it is the ruling party and has more resources at its command than its rivals.

However, the BJP does seem to be on a somewhat tricky wicket because it has to fight incumbency, and lack of effective local campaigners. This has forced the party to deploy its big guns from the Centre, and Assam worthies like chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and his predecessor Sarbananda Sonowal.

It has also deployed Suvendu Adhikari and Mithun Chakraborty from West Bengal, where it is facing serious existential problems, as its MLAs are making a beeline to the Trinamool Congress.

The BJP’s problem is that it has to focus on all the three states going to the polls – Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, while the Left and the Congress have no such grandiose ambitions, and are focusing all their energies on Tripura alone.

No pre-poll surveys

Although West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has campaigned in Tripura over the last two days, the TMC seems to be resigned to its fate of bringing up the rear. It is concentrating more on Meghalaya, where it fancies it has more of a chance to win.

There has been no major pre-poll survey done as yet, with the major news networks busy with the Adani Group meltdown. They are only likely to come up with exit polls. But, smaller YouTube sites are coming up with their own predictions, based on hunches by ‘Satta’ gamblers!

One predicts 10 seats for BJP, two to TMC, two to Congress, and 23 each to the Left and TIPRA Motha. Yet another predicts nine seats for BJP, and 23 and 21 each to the Left and the new tribal outfit respectively. They reckon that Congress will bag eight. The third one predicts 23 for the Left, 17 for TIPRA Motha, 13 for the BJP and eight for the Congress.

While none of these predictions can be taken at face value, for not being scientific psephological surveys, they seem to convey the bazaar wisdom and the general buzz in the state.