Tripura Elections: Congress & Left Made BJP Nervous but Will Votes Transfer?

Tripura is now the seventh state in the recent past where the Congress has formed an alliance with the Left.

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Tripura Elections: Congress & Left Made BJP Nervous but Will Votes Transfer?
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The Tripura Assembly elections, which seemed to be a done deal for the BJP, is giving it some nervous moments.

The party is pulling out all stops to ensure that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's rally next week is a success. According to sources in the BJP, there were concerns in the party after the response to Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath's meeting "didn't meet expectations".

Sources say that Panchayat secretaries have been given targets for the PM's rally. To ensure a large turnout, they have apparently been asked to focus on mobilising beneficiaries of government schemes.

Why is there nervousness in the BJP ranks?

There are two aspects to this - the emergence of TIPRA Motha and the Left and Congress coming together.

A few days back we looked at how TIPRA Motha and its promise of a Greater Tipraland has become a challenge for the BJP-IPFT alliance in the tribal dominated areas in Tripura.


This piece by Sagarneel Sinha takes a detailed look at the Left's strategy to take on the BJP.

In this piece, we will take a closer look at the Congress.

Why is This Alliance Important for the Congress?

From the national point of view, Tripura is now the latest among seventh state or union territory in which the Congress and Left contested as pre-poll allies in the past few years. The other six in the recent past are:

  • West Bengal: 2016 and 2021

  • Bihar: 2020

  • Assam: 2021

  • Tamil Nadu: 2021

  • Puducherry: 2021

  • Telangana: 2018 (only CPI)

The Left also supported the Congress' Bharat Jodo Yatra in a number of places like Maharashtra and Jammu and Kashmir, though they did not support it in Kerala - where the two remain bitter rivals.

The alliance in Tripura is further proof of the increasingly close ties between the two.

For many in the Congress and Left, it isn't just Opposition to BJP but also Trinamool Congress (TMC) that brings the two parties together.

Unlike the Left, which isn't challenging the Congress nationally, the TMC has made its national ambitions clear - its campaign in Goa in 2022 and now in Meghalaya and Tripura seem to be attempts at taking the Congress space. Two former Congress leaders are crucial faces for it in the two Northeastern states - Mukul Sangma in Meghalaya and Sushmita Deb in Tripura.

TMC's Goa expedition has already failed, in Meghalaya the party is almost entirely dependent on Mukul Sangma. So ensuring that TMC is a non-starter in Tripura is crucial for the Congress in nipping the TMC's national challenge in the bud. Hence the alliance with Left becomes crucial.


Has the Congress Conceded too Much?

Under the seat sharing arrangement, the Congress is contesting 13 seats, the CPI-M 43, one seat each to the CPI, RSP and Forward Block and in the Ramnagar seat the alliance is supporting Independent candidate Purushuttam Roy Barman.

Has one side conceded more or less would depend of whether one takes the 2018 Assembly election as the base or the 2019 Lok Sabha election.

In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress was the number two party behind the BJP in terms of vote share. It even led in nine Assembly segments: Simna, Mandaibazar, Takarjala, Boxanagar, Ramchandraghat, Asharambari, Ampinagar, Karmachara and Kailashahar

However the seven segments the Congress was leading on, are ST reserved seats and the Congress was probably only a default beneficiary of the resentment among the indigenous tribal community. That vote, to a great extent, has now shifted to TIPRA Motha so the Congress can't take it for granted.

The Congress seems to have been the default beneficiary of the anti-BJP vote in Boxanagar, which has a sizable Muslim population.

On the other hand, in the 2018 Assembly election, the Congress only had a vote share of 1.8 percent compared to 44 percent of the Left Front.

Some say that, the CPI-M has been generous in accommodating the Congress in several seats - for instance in Kailashahr the Left agreed to give the seat to Congress veteran Birajit Sinha, at the expense of losing a young Muslim leader Moboshar Ali, who is now the BJP candidate.

Kailashahr was the ninth seat where the Congress was leading in the Lok Sabha polls.

(Picture for representation only)

(Photo: PTI)

Overall it seems the Congress may have been practical in settling for 13 seats in its larger aim of defeating the BJP and ensuring a wipeout of the TMC.


Will Votes Transfer?

This is the big question.

The Left and Congress are traditional rivals in Tripura and the state's non-tribal areas mostly had a bipolar between the two for four decades between 1972 and 2013.

This changed after the two parties allied in West Bengal in 2016. Initially, many Congress leaders and cadres shifted to the TMC. But by 2018, the entire anti-Left vote in Tripura shifted entirely to the BJP. Congress cadres, leaders and supporters consolidated behind the BJP in a substantial way, just to defeat the Left.

Given a strong anti-Left history, it remains to be seen whether the Congress is able to transfer votes to the Left in the seats in the latter's quota.

Ground reports suggest a mixed picture. In some places like Amarpur, Belonia and Hrishyamukh there seems to be a smooth transfer of votes. Left votes are shifting to the Congress in most of the party's 13 seats because there is immense desperation among Left supporters.

However, in a few places where popular former Congress leaders are fighting on BJP tickets, there is a split in the erstwhile Congress votes.

If the Congress and Left consolidate the Opposition vote especially in the Bengali speaking areas and the TIPRA Motha does well in the tribal areas, it could spell trouble for the BJP. It is still an uphill task for the Opposition, given the advantage BJP has in terms of resources as well as by virtue of being in power in both the centre and state.

But giving BJP a scare in Tripura at a time when it is in the peak of its dominance in the Northeast, would be no small achievement.

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