BJP'S uphill battle in left bastion Tripura

By Amulya Ganguli. Dated: 2/23/2018 12:13:02 PM

Saffron's may not finally succeed

The enormous effort which the BJP has put in for what many will regard as a lost cause, viz. that of winning the Tripura elections, holds a lesson for other parties. In fact, the prime minister might have mentioned his party's determined chase of a seemingly unattainable goal in the northeastern state during his recent interaction with students on how to approach an examination.
The BJP's strenuous endeavours show a willingness to work hard if only to prepare the ground for future gains, although there may not be any immediate advantages. True, the BJP's resources enable it to invest in apparently unviable projects which many other parties cannot afford to do. It also has the advantage of having in Narendra Modi an orator who is capable of drawing crowds almost anywhere, a luxury not enjoyed by the BJP's opponents.
This plus point is all the more important for the BJP because it is trying to make inroads in regions where it has been a veritable outsider since Independence. The fact that its voting percentages in Tripura in the last three assembly elections were 1.3 in 2003, 1.5 in 2008 and 1.5 in 2013 underlines the steepness of its climb. Any analyst would have dissuaded the party from trying to do the seemingly impossible.
From this aspect, the BJP's zeal is admirable. What is the reason for this enthusiasm? First and foremost is its belief that its pro-Hindu agenda has struck a chord among fairly large sections of Bengalis who constitute 70 per cent of the population in Tripura. This tendency can be seen in West Bengal as well where the BJP, though far behind the Trinamool Congress, has been improving its position as could be seen in last month's by-elections in Uluberia and Noapara where it came second, ahead of the CPI(M).
However, the snag is that the Bengalis in Tripura will be uneasy about the BJP's alliance with the Indigenous People's Front of Tripura (IPFT), a party of tribals, which wants a separate Tipraland. The IPFT's separatist agenda is bound to be exploited by the CPI(M) to keep the Bengalis on its side and retain its 48.1 per cent vote share, even if the Marxists have lost some of their earlier appeal after a quarter of a century in power, because it no longer has leaders of the stature of Nripen Chakravarty and Dasarath Deb, who laid the foundation of the party's growth.
Although Manik Sarkar, reputedly India's poorest chief minister, is admired for his simple lifestyle, his government cannot claim that it has boosted Tripura's economic development. At a time when the BJP insists that vikas is its sole objective even if the party hasn't been noticeably successful in this respect at the national level, the promise of development is likely to appeal to the unemployed.
Another of the BJP's advantages is that the Congress, which is the main opposition party in Tripura with a vote share of more than 30 per cent, is not in the pink of heath and has been losing its members to both the Trinamool Congress and the BJP. The BJP hopes, therefore, at least to take the Congress's place as the CPI(M)'s primary opponent even if coming to power remains a dream.
The BJP also expects to make some headway on the basis of the groundwork done by the RSS and its affiliates in the tribal areas and by aligning with the IPFT. However, the alliance can both help and hinder the BJP because the IPFT has a background of violent agitations and one of its demands is to throw Bengalis, who came from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), out of Tripura.
The chief minister played a stellar role in restoring peace between the Bengalis and the tribals by sending mercenaries to attack the hideouts of the tribal rebels in Bangladesh in what can be called one of the first examples of surgical strikes carried out by an Indian government in a neighbouring country. Called the Agartala doctrine, the strikes by surrendered militants working in tandem with the Bangladeshi mafia were conducted in total secrecy.
In the context, however, of the rebel threats to evict the Bengalis, the assertion by Assam's health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who is in charge of the BJP's campaign in Tripura, that Manik Sarkar will be sent to Bangladesh if the CPI(M) loses is unlikely to be well received by the Bengalis. At the same time, Sarma has discounted the possibility of the formation of a Tipraland although a IPFT leader has said that Union home minister Rajnath Singh has promised to set up a committee to examine the Tipraland proposal.
A member of a BJP think tank has defended the party's alliances with separatist organizations on the grounds that such tie-ups defuse the extremist elements and help to bring the outfits into the national mainstream. He has cited as an example the alliance between the BJP and the People's Democratic Party in Kashmir. But whether the Bengalis in Tripura will see the BJP's tie-up with the IPFT in this light will only be known when the results are out early next month.
--(IPA Service)



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