Congress’ loss as Opposition in Tripura is BJP’s gain, but victory will demand steep rise from last election’s 1.54% vote share

Tripura’s trust with bipolar political struggles continues as it goes to polls on 18 February, only difference being replacement of Congress by the BJP as the main Opposition to the Left Front government.The saffron party, which is in power in 19 states, including three in the North East, has allied with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), carefully negotiating the regional party’s demand for a separate state while strengthening its chances to replace Manik Sarkar, the chief minister from past 20 years. CPM led Left Front has been in power in Tripura continuously for 30 years since 1988.Sarkar never faced a challenge whatsoever to his regime in his four successive terms; thanks to faction riddled Congress and its reluctance to topple the Left regime despite garnering a minimum 40 percent vote share in every election since 1993. “Congress High Command never wanted to take on CPM for compulsions in national politics,” said Asish Saha, an MLA elected on a Congress ticket in 2013, who had moved to Trinamool Congress in 2016, before joining the BJP. Saha is the BJP candidate from Town Bordowali constituency this election.The scenario for BJP in Tripura has changed fast after the Narendra Modi government came to Centre in 2014. While the last Assembly election saw BJP score only 1.54 percent votes, the two Lok Sabha seats in the state were claimed by CPM in 2014. In the state Assembly elections since 1983, BJP never secured more than 2 percent vote share, except in 1998 when it polled 5.87 percent.In the current election season, while the BJP is exclusively dependent on regional players in Meghalaya and Nagaland, in Tripura, many of the prominent leaders of the Congress and indigenous parties have moved in to the saffron party fold, positioning the BJP as the main opposition to the Left Front rule.

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