Last week, Tripura Congress interim president Pijush Kanti Biswas submitted his resignation to the party high command, making him the second leader from Congress to quit the Grand Old Party. Biswas followed Sushmita Dev, one of the most important leaders from Assam’s Barak Valley, who also resigned from Congress to join the TMC.
However, the same night, Biswas withdrew his resignation, calming any speculation that he too was going to join the TMC or the BJP. For now, the Tripura Congress may have weathered the storm, but the Grand Old Party, which was once the face of opposition in the state, now faces becoming another party with little or no clout in Tripura.
And it is not the BJP but the TMC which is primed to grab Congress’ support base. TMC grabbed the headlines in the past few weeks in the state courtesy the visit of its General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee and the ensuing violence, followed by allegations and counter allegations.
Two decades of dormancy, two months of headlines
The history of the TMC in Tripura is as old as the party’s history in its home state, West Bengal. The TMC was launched on January 1, 1998, and a year later the party also launched its state unit in Tripura. However, the party remained dormant in the coming decade. In 2013 state elections, the TMC secured 1.54 percent vote share, which fell to 0.30 percent in 2018 as the 25-year reign of the Left came to an end in the state.
The TMC is again trying to become a prominent political force in the state and this is where the neighbouring state’s leader: Sushmita Dev, comes into picture. While the Barak Valley remains Sushmita Dev’s main focus, it is obvious that she will impact Tripura politics too.
Of course, now that Sushmita Dev has left Congress, the party believes that her leaving will not impact the party’s fortune in Assam, let alone Assam. Tripura Pradesh Congress Committee Vice-President Tapas Dey told EastMojo, “Sushmita Dev had held the position of National Mahila congress, yet she failed to organise the Tripura Mahila committee. This shows her ignorance towards Tripura. I don’t think her inclusion in TMC will make any difference to TMC who are trying to create space for themselves.”
Dey took the opportunity to blame the senior leaders of the AICC for the failure of Congress in Tripura in the 2013 and 2018 state assembly elections.
“The AICC leadership has always delayed in listening to our voice and demands which resulted in the failure of the party. We have had opportunities to fill the space between the Left and BJP, but due to the AICC leaders we failed to make any difference,” Dey added.
The TMC, on the other hand, is buoyed by the inclusion of Sushmita Dev in the party ranks. TMC leader and former Congress leader Subal Bhowmik believes the entry of Sushmita Dev to TMC will strengthen the party not just in Assam, but all of Northeast.
“A national level leader like Sushmita has left the Congress party and joined us. This shows the prospect of TMC in Northeast in the days ahead. In Tripura too, her presence will make a difference,” Bhowmik told EastMojo.
It is understandable why Bhowmik feels so: he too left the BJP, of which he was the state vice president, to join the TMC. He joined former minister Prakash Das and youth Congress leaders and NSUI state president Rakesh Das in switching sides to the TMC.
Such is the newfound confidence of the TMC that their leaders have asked their bitter rivals: CPIM, to allow their supporters to join the TMC and fight against the BJP in Tripura.
Of course, this has not gone down well with the CPIM, which still considers itself to be the main opposition party against the BJP. According to Gautam Das, the Left is very much on the streets, ‘fighting against the misrule of the BJP-IPFT government.’
He also claimed that the CPIM would return to power in the next state assembly elections. “The CPIM party has been very much on the ground fighting the ruling BJP. Our leaders and supporters have faced attacks by the supporters of the BJP,” Das said.
Where do the indigenous parties stand?
No party can win the Tripura elections without having a large voter base in the tribal regions, which account for 20 of the 60 assembly seats. Even though the tribal regions have one-third of all the seats, it covers a little over 70% of the state. This is both beneficial and detrimental to the TMC. Given that it has almost exclusively focused on the Bengali-speaking population, they are unlikely to have a big base in the tribal regions. The BJP, through its rather tumultuous alliance with the IPFT, does not have to worry about the TMC in tribal areas for now.
It is TIPRA that gave a bloody nose to the BJP in the recently-concluded Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council Elections, winning the majority and obliterating fellow tribal party the IPFT. TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh recently met with TIPRA chief Pradyot Deb Barma over a courtesy meet, but a possible alliance for the ADC seats was also on the table. When contacted, the TIPRA chief said, “Anyone who accepts our demands and gives in writing, we are ready to hold discussion with them. Our movement has nothing to do with political development. We are ready to even fight all the seats alone if nobody accepts our decision.”
For now, the BJP reign does not look much in trouble, but it will be interesting to see what the re-birth of TMC in Tripura will do to the state’s politics. #Khelahobe? Only time will tell.
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