The Left will face the biggest test in 25 years when Tripura goes to elections today.
In the absence of a formidable Opposition, the polls since 1993 had been always a cakewalk for the Left, which had invariably grabbed 47 to 50 of the state’s 60 seats. However, in this election, the BJP is out there to give them a run for their money.
Tripura became a full-fledged state in 1972 and except for 11 years (1972 to 1977 and 1988 to 1993), the Left has always ruled Tripura, which is surrounded by Bangladesh on three sides.
Elections in the past have been always a straight contest between the Left and the Congress. The Congress eroded severely since with its popularity reaching the lowest ebb in recent years following infighting and the defections of MLAs. The BJP has now occupied that space after having grown at the expense of the grand old party.
The BJP has aligned with tribal based Indigenous People’s Front of Twipra (NC Debbarma faction) to keep the tribals in good humour. Twenty seats are reserved for them and they also hold sway in some other constituencies.
Of the three states, including Nagaland and Meghalaya (both Christian-majority), which are going to polls, the BJP’s focus is more on Tripura. To be able to warm up to voters, the BJP had roped in a number of its stalwarts, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, for campaigning. Chief minister Manik Sarkar led the campaign of his CPI-M.
The BJP has gained massive support base in urban Tripura in recent years and hence, is expected to do well there. The Left is optimistic about rural Tripura.
Both parties are confident of getting a majority. For the BJP, the biggest threat, however, is the split of anti-Left votes as the Congress, despite literally having been decimated, fielded 59 candidates, its highest since 1977. The BJP alleged the Congress had fielded a large number of candidates to help the CPI-M as part of a tacit understanding. The CPI-M rubbished it. The general perception is that the results may go either way. The locals call it 50:50.
Voting would be held between 7 am and 4 pm today at 3,214 polling stations of which 47 would be managed by women. Counting of votes on March 3rd.
- Polling will be held in 59 out of 60 constituencies. It has been deferred in Charilam as the CPI-M candidate Ramendra Narayan Deb Barma died five days ago. Polling here will be held on March 12.
- Altogether 297 candidates, including 20 women, are in the fray.
- There are 25,73,413 electorate, of whom 13,05,375 are males and 12,68,027 women while the number of third gender voters is 11. There are 47,803 new voters this time.
Number of candidates
- CPI-M – 57. It left one seat each to allies CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP
- BJP – 51 seats. It left nine seats to ally IPFT
- Congress – 59
- TMC – 24
- Of the 60 seats, 20 are reserved for STs and ten for SCs