GUWAHATI: The BJP crushed the Left in Tripura on Saturday, stopping its 25-year-long run in power, inching closer to the dream of ruling the whole of Northeast. The polls were historic given that the Left was never pitted against the Right in a bipolar contest. Following the verdict, the Left is left with power only in Kerala.
The BJP had fought the elections on its popular slogan “chalo paltai” (let’s change). The change has been massive as the BJP-Indigenous People’s Front of Twipra (IPFT) combine secured a two-thirds majority. The results did not come as a surprise to the saffron party, which was optimistic about winning 40-48 seats.
Among the factors working in favour of the BJP-IPFT alliance were anti-incumbency, alleged corruption by the CPI-M-led Left Front government, allegations that the CPI-M worked for the benefit of only its workers and leaders, its alleged politics of terrorising workers of rival political parties, and complacency.
The Left miscalculated the BJP’s strength. The BJP had a high-voltage campaign, roping in almost all its top leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah. In contrast, the CPI-M had a lacklustre campaign. Barring one-two rallies addressed by its central leaders, Chief Minister Manik Sarkar had led the fight against a resurgent BJP.
The BJP hardly had any base in the state until six Trinamool MLAs, who won on Congress tickets in the 2013 polls, defected to the saffron party by the end of last year. That the BJP was serious about Tripura was known when it sent former RSS pracharak and Modi’s poll manager in Varanasi in 2014, Sunil V Deodhar, to the state three years ago.
Later, a bevy of BJP leaders, including Shah, started visiting the state regularly. Shah dined at a tribal’s house to keep the community in good humour. Twenty of Tripura’s 60 seats are reserved for tribals, and the BJP wasted no time in stitching an alliance with tribal-based IPFT.
As it went to the polls, the Left was faced with charges of corruption. One of its ministers was grilled by the CBI in connection with the multi-crore rupees Rose Valley chit fund scam. The BJP used it as an issue in its poll campaign.
Anti-incumbency is believed to have worked in the BJP’s favour. The Left has faced anti-incumbency before, but people did not have an alternative. The Congress was a divided house, and its leaders were arrogant. When the BJP emerged, people found a party to go to. Not just the upper- and middle-classes, even the lower middle-class and the poor embraced the party. It was evident from the BJP winning seats across the state.