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Tripura Bypolls May Show Who's the Main Opposition: Congress, Left, TMC or Tipra

All of BJP's 4 candidates including CM Dr Manik Saha will be contesting the Assembly elections for the first time.

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Politics
5 min read
Tripura Bypolls May Show Who's the Main Opposition: Congress, Left, TMC or Tipra
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The Assembly bypolls in Tripura which are slated to be held on 23 June will very well act as the trailer for the full film (read: Assembly elections) that is due in early 2023. A total of 1,88,854 electors will be able to cast their votes to the four seats going to polls.

Four Assembly seats of Agartala, Town Bardowali, Surma and Jubarajnagar will be going to polls. These were necessitated after death of CPI(M) MLA Ramendra Chandra Debnath (Jubarajnagar) and the resignations of Roy Barman (Agartala) and Asish Saha (Town Bardowali). The Surma seat was vacated after Ashish Das was disqualified by the speaker.

Barman and Saha joined the Congress, while Das had joined TMC. However, Das recently quit the TMC and is yet to announce his next move.

The stakes are high for every contesting party, including newcomers Trinamool Congress who have been generating some buzz over their chances this time around. How much weight that holds is a topic we shall come back to later.

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But the biggest litmus test is for the Bharatiya Janata Party who have been facing significant anti-incumbency in the state, especially when former Chief Minister Biplab Deb was at the helm.

Litmus Test for BJP and It’s Debutants

Deb was removed and Dr. Manik Saha was sworn in as the CM just before the by-elections, and now it is to be seen whether they have managed to arrest the anti-incumbency wave or not. The BJP is hoping that the gentleman image of Dr Saha can help them, and is in stark contrast to Deb’s image.

What makes the elections even more significant for the saffron party is that Saha is one of the candidates fighting the elections and will be in a do-or-die contest as losing means having to vacate his CM chair.

This will also be the debut match for the dental surgeon-turned-politician, who has been a Rajya Sabha member for the BJP otherwise. He will be contesting from Town Bardowali seat, against Ashish Saha, who was the former legislator from this very seat. Meanwhile the Left nominee for this seat is Raghunath Sarkar of the All India Forward Bloc.

In fact, it will be the debut match for BJP’s other three candidates too for any assembly constituency.

BJP state vice-president Dr. Ashok Sinha will be contesting the Agartala seat. He is the party’s former spokesperson and has always been perceived as an intellectual face, the Ravichandran Ashwin of cricket types.

Malina Debnath, the state BJP’s organisational president in the north will be contesting from the Jubrajnagar seat, while Swapna Das Paul has been fielded from Surma.

Experts have predicted that the BJP are slated to win at least one to two seats out of four.

Opposition to Give a Tough Fight

The Congress has fielded ex-Tripura minister from the Biplab Deb government Sudip Kumar Barman against BJP’s Ashok Sinha in Agartala and Left front nominee Krishna Majumdar.

Jubrajnagar has always been a traditional Left bastion where the Left has fielded Sailendra Chandra Nath of the CPI(M), who will be going up against first timer Malina Debnath.

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The Tipra Motha, and ex-BJP ally Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) are adding to the ruling party's difficulties.

Tipra Motha, headed by royal scion Pradyot Kishore Debbarma, will be contesting Assembly seats for the first time, after having swept the Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council last year.

They command a significant clout in the tribal areas and have fielded Baburam Satnami in the Surma seat against BJP’s Swapna Das Paul and the Left Front’s Anjan Das. The Congress has decided to support the Tipra Motha in this seat. The IPFT too seems to be getting ready to split from the BJP and join the Tipra Motha.

Trinamool in Tripura? Maybe Next Time

The TMC has generated quite a bit of buzz over their chances in the Tripura bypolls, which even they admit is a good indicator of things to come in the state, especially next year. Fancying their chances, they have fielded candidates in all four constituencies.

The most notable of their candidates is Sanhita Banerjee, who has been fielded against CM Saha in Town Bardowali. According to the TMC, she belongs to a lineage of freedom fighters.

But contrary to the buzz, experts have opined that the party has failed to make enough inroads into the state, as witnessed by the rather underwhelming crowd at AITC General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee’s ‘padyatra’, according to local media.

The other factor working against the TMC in Tripura is that the opposition parties, especially the Congress and the Left Front are not nearly as weak as they are in Bengal. They opposition parties still command significant clout, and the TMC can’t take advantage of the void left in the opposition space to build their cadre, like they have been trying in other states.

Experts have further opined that the TMC’s best chance this time around is to maybe come second in the Surma seat.

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Marred by Violence

Violence has become an unfortunate but incessant part of the political atmosphere in Bengal and Tripura, and this time has been no different. The Trinamool Congress and Congress have cried foul over their nominees being allegedly attacked by BJP cadres.

TMC alleged that their Agartala candidate Panna Deb was attacked, and his car vandalized on Saturday 18 June. Deb’s car was allegedly vandalized near Indranagar High School, and the miscreants had allegedly thrashed Deb.

In Surma, TMC alleged that more than 70 families had joined the TMC on 16 June, but were brutally attacked by BJP goons thereafter. A six-member delegation visited the ECI office the following day to complain about the violence.

Meanwhile, Congress candidate Sudip Roy Barman was allegedly attacked with stones by miscreants in Agartala on Sunday, 19 June. He was allegedly attacked when he was visiting an injured party worker.

The results of the bypolls will be declared on June 26.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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