The Battle for States: Tripura

BJP's Gateway to Bengal vs Left's Impregnable Citadel

A cheat sheet to understand the less covered state of Tripura, which is going to polls this week.

Subhajit Sengupta, Sheikh Saaliq | 13 Feb, 2018

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The tiny state of Tripura on the North East corner of the country has largely remained out of the headlines. Except for when Dipa Karmakar hit international stardom after her conquest in the Rio Olympics, Tripura hardly got its share of limelight. But this time, it is battle royale in Tripura. It is the first state to see a direct Left Versus Right fight in the country.

This clash goes beyond the electoral numbers, this is a fight of two diametrically opposite ideology. No wonder, success starved CPI(M) general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, is already calling Tripura, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "waterloo moment". Meanwhile, the Prime Minister himself is going all out to win the state. Here is all that you need to know about Tripura elections.

Total Number of seats: 60 Seats

Date of Poling: 18/02/2017

Incumbent government: Manik Sarkar led Left Front government has been ruling Tripura for the last 20 years


CPI (M) HAS INCREASED ITS SEAT SHARE IN LAST THREE ELECTIONS


Main challenger: The BJP is running a spirited campaign to overthrow the two-decade-old Manik Sarkar government. The party has aligned with the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura's (IPFT), a tribal party. In last five years, the opposition space was first occupied by the Congress, then theTrinamool Congress and finally now it is theBJP.


VOTE SHARE OF MAJOR POLITICAL PARTIES IN 1998, 2003, 2008 & 2013 ELECTIONS


Possible kingmaker: The three tribal parties Indigenous Nationalist Party of Twipra (INPT), National Council of Tripura (NCT) and Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) have pockets of stronghold in the tribal dominated hill areas of the state. In case of a fractured mandate, these parties are likely to demand their pound of flesh.

Main Poll Issue: This Tripura election has turned into a referendum for Manik Sarkar. A man of frugal means, he is seen as the epitome of simplicity in politics. But the BJP has launched a high voltage campaign accusing the Chief Minister of keeping the state poor, hungry and stagnant.


VOTE SHARE SWING IN LAST TWO TRIPURA TRIBAL AREAS AUTONOMOUS DISTRICT COUNCIL ELECTIONS FOR CPI(M) (2010 AND 2015)


Leitmotif of the State: The overriding factor of the state continues to be the divide between Bengalis and Tribals. Between 1941 and 1951, the percentage of tribal population in the state dropped from 53 percent to a little over 37 percent. The Census of 2011 shows the tribal population hovering above 30 percent. Post partition there has been massive immigration of Bengali Hindus from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to Tripura. This led to a demographic change.

Today, while the hill districts remain tribal dominated, the plains of Tripura are largely habitated by the Bengalis. The independent Tripuri Kingdom joined India in 1949. Since then the politics in the state has been dominated by this divide. Following the 1971 Bangladesh war, the imigration of Bengali speaking population increased in the state. This is when the state saw massive violence. It continued till the 90s but has been relatively calm since then. The establishment of an autonomous tribal administrative agency and the removal of the controversial AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) helped in restoring peace in the state.


CANDIDATES WITH CRIMINAL CASES


Geographically, Tripura is surrounded by Bangladesh from three sides – north, west and south. A highway from Assam connects the state to the rest of the country on the eastern side. The state now also has a railway line. A bus service also connects Agartala to Kolkata via Bangladesh.

(Data Source: Election Commision of India)