Agartala: Call it a coincidence. On April Fools Day, Tripura Congress President Pijush Kanti Biswas had said he believed his party would play the kingmaker’s role in the upcoming Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) elections.
Political leaders are prone to exaggeration during election rallies, of course, so it would be right to take his comment with a pinch of salt. Instead, when ADC results emerged, Congress looked less like a kingmaker and more like a person with an egg on their face.
Not only did the grand old party not open its account in the elections, it lost to NOTA (none of the above) in at least two seats, while on a few other seats, it barely managed to beat NOTA.
Congress’ performance in the recently-concluded elections could be described as shocking, but a few experts believe that this was completely expected from a party that has gone from being the ‘main’ opposition to an almost irrelevant force in state politics.
NOTA is an option that enables the voters to officially register a vote of rejection for all the candidates contesting from a seat.
To put Congress’ performance in context, it contested on all 28 seats and received only 16,425 votes. That makes it an average of fewer than 600 votes per constituency. In many seats, the winners received over 10,000 votes; the Congress’ best-performing candidate could not even cross 2,000 votes. NOTA received 7,327 votes in total.
Of the 28 seats, the Congress received 141 votes against 158 NOTA votes in Ramchandra Ghat and 226 votes against 233 NOTA votes in Takarjala-Jampuijala constituencies, while in Simra-Tamakari, it managed to get 219 votes against 205 NOTA votes and 316 votes against 285 NOTA votes in Ampinagar constituency.
The party crossed 1,000 votes in only three constituencies and did not come close to challenging the winners in even a single constituency. The Congress received 1,669 votes in Karamchara (ST) seat, where the BJP candidate won, with 11,572 votes. In Chhawmanu, Congress secured 1,455 votes, and in Manu-Chailengta, it received 1,935 votes. Both the seats went to BJP with 12,036 and 9,394 votes respectively.
But it is not as if the party is fazed by its horrendous performance. Speaking with EastMojo, Pradesh Vice-President Tapas Dey said, “We are not satisfied with the performance, but we are happy that the Left Front was wiped out of the ADC area. It was for the first time after many years that the Congress decided to fight the election on its own and we received a good response,” Dey said.
He said that the performance of Congress in the 2019 Lok Sabha was better as they secured around 27 per cent of the total vote share. However, they could not maintain the performance in the ADC election. “We are hopeful that the presence of Congress in the district council will still be there, and in the 2023 state general assembly elections Congress will be the option against BJP’s misrule,” Dey added.
Other leaders do not share Congress’ enthusiasm, and understandably so. Speaking with EastMojo, TIPRA chairman Pradyot Kishore Deb Barman said that the Congress was not even in the field to contest the election, let alone be a Kingmaker. “The Congress party is nowhere in the ADC areas, and I don’t understand if they had contested to win the election or help other political parties by cutting the votes of TIPRA,” Deb Barman said. The Congress’ performance would have been particularly satisfying for Deb Barman, who resigned from Congress in 2019.
TTADC in numbers: TIPRA vs the Rest
A total of 157 candidates, including 14 from BJP, 17 from IPFT, 28 from the Left Front, 28 from the Congress, 4 from the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT), 30 candidates from other political parties and 38 independent candidates took part in the elections. Over 7.3 lakh voters exercised their franchise in these elections.
The numbers show that it was a case of TIPRA vs the rest, with no party coming even close to the Pradyot Deb Barman’s outfit which secured close to 38% of all votes polled.
The BJP too, received only 18.72 per cent of the votes, but it contested only half the seats. The CPIM, which ruled over ADC for two decades, received 12.46 per cent of votes, the INC received 2.24 per cent of votes, the IPFT received 77,946 votes with 10.62 per cent, the INPT received 9.30 per cent of votes.
Among other regional parties RSP, JDU and AIFB received 11,646 votes with 1.59 per cent, and independent candidates received 51,106 votes which is 6.97 per cent of the total votes polled.