People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 11

March 17, 2013



Tripura: Great Victory was Certainly no Cakewalk


Haripada Das


NOW that the people of Tripura have once again reposed their faith in the Left Front, with a five-sixth majority in the just concluded assembly elections, a new council of ministers under the leadership of Manik Sarkar was sworn in on March 6 amid the cheers of thousands of enthusiastic people. The seventh Left Front government of the state has thus started its renewed venture.


If only we takes the trouble to scan the election results, one would find that though Tripura is a tiny state in the backward north eastern region of the country, it has set bright records in our electoral history. First, the voter turnout in this election was 93.73 per cent, which was unprecedented for India. Second, female turnout was 93.02 per cent in this election, 2.13 per cent higher than the male turnout of 90.89 per cent. (This excludes the postal votes.) This points to the massive involvement of women in the election campaign.




These assembly polls saw a straight contest between Left Front on the one hand and the Congress-INPT-NCT alliance on the other. While the Left Front won 50 seats in the 60-member assembly, the Congress bagged the remaining 10 and its allies none.


Most of the 129 other candidates sponsored by various national and state parties --- the BJP, NCP, SP, IPFT (a breakaway group of erstwhile TUJS), SUCI, CPI(ML), Amara Bengali etc --- could hardly make their presence felt in any constituency. The BJP contested 50 seats but lost deposits in all except Dharmanagar (North Tripura). All the remaining candidates also lost deposits.


Next, this is the first time since 1978 that the INPT (erstwhile TUJS), a mask of the terrorist NLFT outfit and an electoral ally of the Congress, has no presence in the assembly.


All the five women candidates put up by the CPI(M) returned this time. Out of the 20 ST and 10 SC reserved seats, the Left Front won 19 and 8 respectively, and the Congress the rest.


Out of its 50 seats, the Left Front won 45 with more than 50 per cent of votes. Those include five seats with more than 60 per cent and 11 with more than 55 per cent votes. The Left Front lost in three seats, even though it polled more than 48 per cent here. On the other hand, of its 10 seats, the Congress won five with more than 50 per cent votes. Overall, the Left Front polled 52.32 per cent votes, 1.14 per cent higher than in the 2008 assembly elections. The Congress alliance, however, retained the vote percentage it polled last time. Thus the people of Tripura sincerely responded to the Left Front’s call for a new term with a bigger mandate. The people’s verdict is decisive in respect of seats as well as votes.


But was it a straight road to victory in a straight contest? By no means! While reviewing these results, we must consider the national situation when the Left is passing through a defensive phase. After the debacle the Left faced in West Bengal and Kerala, the anti-communist vested interests both inside the country and abroad have been targeting Tripura, and the highly emboldened Congress leaders set a countdown clock for dislodging of the Left Front government here.


With this aim in view, the Congress appointed paid whole-time workers in every constituency from mid-2011 onward --- unlike what it did in any other earlier election. Even though a majority of the print media here are basically anti-Left and serve the Congress cause day in and day out, several new publications with an anti-Left attitude were launched. Several cable channels too were set up to run an anti-Left campaign. Most of these print and electronic media reportedly had the backing of the Congress party or some corporate house. In contrast, there was only Daily Desher Katha to refute the volley of scandals and forged allegations dished out by the anti-Left media.




In addition, the Congress began to revive the already waning NLFT extremist outfit through leaders of the INPT; the latter is an open front of the NLFT outlaws and electoral ally of the Congress. In all earlier elections, the NLFT always perpetrated violence in favour of the Congress-INPT alliance. In league with some surrendered extremist youth and Congress tribal leaders, INPT leaders had been collecting huge funds for this extremist outfit camping in Bangladesh. They were also recruiting fresh youth for this outfit and sending them to the Bangladesh camp for arms training. In June 2012, the police caught red-handed Dhanu Kalai, a surrendered extremist, after a long vehicular chase; Kalai was carrying a sum of 25 lakh Indian rupees for sending to the NLFT headquarters. Being quizzed, Kalai informed that it was the fifth instalment he was to send to the NLFT; the earlier four instalments had successfully reached the outfit. On the basis of the information he provided, security forces averted several heinous attacks including planned bomb attacks on crowded places in Agartala during the Puja festival, and rounded up some of the NLFT’s accomplices. In his judicial confession Kalai also said Congress and INPT leaders were the mastermind behind collection of funds and recruitment of youth for the NLFT hideout in Bangladesh.   


Taking a cue from Trinamul Congress (TMC) in West Bengal, the Congress in Tripura started non-cooperation with every development project of the state government and opposed them on flimsy grounds. In August 2010, it openly opposed holding of exam for admission to the Tripura Medical College. Moreover, when the plan to stop the entrance exam was aborted, Congress hoodlums attacked the West Agartala Police Station and set several police vehicles afire, killing an innocent youth in violence. They threatened a Nandigram like movement in Bishalgarh against acquisition of land for extension of the rail line to Subroom. Though three alternative alignments were drawn to negotiate with them, none could satisfy them. Finally the dispute was clinched by the Supreme Court but by this time the project was delayed by two years. They opposed the state government’s decision to provide 35 kg of rice per month to every BPL family at Rs 2 per kg, on the ridiculous plea that it would deprive the peasants of a remunerative price. Ironically, one of the pledges they prominently made during election campaign was to offer the BPL families same quantity of rice at one rupee per kg. 




The Congress also created a lot of confusion about the revision of electoral rolls this time; at one point people were in suspense whether the elections would be held in time. The Congress started to play a dubious role right from the roll revision in the later part of 2012. After the period fixed for submitting claims and objections ended, they collected complaints regarding “erroneous” entries and submitted them to the Election Commission (EC) in Delhi in two phases. The commission then extended the date for submission of claims and objections by a fortnight and appointed eight roll observers in two phases to conduct district-wise physical verification about the complaints.


Moreover, while the EC was probing the complaints submitted directly to them in violation of the official procedure of correction, the Congress started propaganda that it would not allow election to be held unless an error-free roll was made. On the other hand, while verifying the complaints, the roll observers were highly astonished to find that the so called ‘ghost voters’ physically stood before them to stake claim as genuine voters. Understandably, most of them were Left Front supporters. At last, when the final roll was published, it was seen that the rate of increase of the electorate was 3.3 per cent, quite normal and close to the national average. Evidently, the Congress engaged in this tug of war only to drag the election schedule beyond the tenure of the Left Front government so that elections could be held under president’s rule. This heinous design of the Congress, however, did not succeed.


But the foulest game the Congress party played in this election was the distribution of bribe in cash and kind. Jahar Saha, one of the AICC members from Tripura, recently informed at a press conference that the Congress High Command had allotted 50 lakh rupees for each constituency. They lavishly doled out this fund to the electors, though in a clandestine manner. To avoid the alert surveillance of the people, the Congress adopted a new trick to bribe the electors. Instead of directly handing over any cash or articles to the electors, they passed on tokens to the electors who may receive from the suppliers the desired articles on production of these tokens.




The Left Front government has been in office for the last 35 years, with a five-year break in 1988-93, and has certainly succeeded in fulfilling many aspirations of the people. The government also put forward an alternative approach for the well-being of the common people. But, as one knows, once the income of the people rises, their aspirations also grow. Thus at one point of time it was difficult to keep pace with the people’s aspirations, more so for a resource-crunched state like Tripura. Thus it is natural if after so many years, some sections of the people got aggrieved. However, even if an anti-incumbency factor was there, it was insignificant and did not much affect the prospect of the Left Front. The latter faced this aspect with a polite admission of its failure in certain areas.   


Several central ministers, Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders from Delhi, leaders from West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh etc, made frequent visits to Tripura during the six month before the polls, and spread while lies against the Left Front government and the CPI(M) in particular. The anti-Left media in the state gladly dished out these slanders to mislead the people. While Left Front leaders, in their campaign, highlighted the issues of neo-liberal policies, their chilling impact, the state government’s alternative approach, its performance, it achievements and its failures, the Congress leaders including Rahul Gandhi mainly relied on anti-communist slanders and baseless allegations of misappropriation from government exchequer etc. But the people of Tripura did not accept this negative campaign of the Congress and allies.


Thus it was the victory of a pro-people alternative against the neo-liberal policies, a victory of the sentiments of peace and stability against violence and instability, victory of morality against money power, victory of honesty over treachery and falsehood. Now it is the turn of the Left Front and its government to show that they would honour the trust the people have bestowed upon them.