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BJP Demolishes Red Fort in Tripura, Opens Gateway to Bengal

A two-thirds majority in Tripura is a morale-booster for the BJP and its cadre in West-Bengal and even in neighbouring Odisha.

Sumit Pande |

Updated:March 3, 2018, 5:54 PM IST
BJP Demolishes Red Fort in Tripura, Opens Gateway to Bengal
BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav and Tripura BJP chief Biplab Kumar Deb greet supporters after party's victory in Tripura Assembly elections in Agartala on Saturday. (PTI Photo)
BJP general secretary Ram Madhav had called Tripura elections ‘the Battle Royale’ amongst the three north-eastern states that went to polls. It was the first direct contest between the Left and the Right in contemporary Indian politics. And BJP - as did the Left - understood all too well the import of the electoral outcome in the state.

Tripura - though it sends just two MPs to the Lok Sabha - was the impregnable Left bastion for 25 years. In the protracted ideological battle, a toe-hold in this small north-eastern state opens the gateway for the party in one more province.

In West Bengal, CPM’s rapid decline has helped BJP emerge as a strong opposition player. But the party is yet to cross the threshold in terms of vote-share to emerge as an alternative to Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. In recent bypolls, BJP candidates have done well. But TMC’s winning margins have been consistently too big.

A two-thirds majority in Tripura is a morale-booster for the BJP and its cadre in West-Bengal and even in the neighbouring Odisha. These are two states from where the party is hoping to pick seats as part of its ‘look-east policy’. This is being seen as a catchment area to offset any deficit BJP incurs in states where the party had peaked in 2014 general elections.

Defeat in Tripura also throws some uncomfortable questions to the Indian Left. Enjoying a cozy existence in two states, and co-existence in another down south, CPM for one has floundered whenever the challenge from the opposition has been determined.

Mamata Banerjee within Congress could never take on the CPM in West-Bengal, but one out of the party, she managed to end the Left dominance in a short span of time.

In Tripura, Congress could not unseat CPM for all the 25 years it remained in the opposition. The same set of people in the BJP managed a comprehensive victory. Despite an impressive vote-share, CPM lost because BJP was able to mobilise all the adversarial voices. Congress’ complete and total rout was as much a factor in these elections.

In politics, shadow boxing has its own limitations. Aam Aadmi Party has shown that in Punjab, where it worked on a modified subaltern agenda to emerge in a short time as the principal opposition where the Left parties once had pockets of influence.

And lastly, the Shah-Modi combine can take heart from another political message emanating from the North East elections. Congress’ defeat or dismal performance in any form and anywhere is a gain for the BJP.

The Grand Old Party would be the main challenger to the BJP in 2019. It would remain at the core of the any anti-NDA alternative at the centre. A string of by-poll wins and an encouraging performance in Gujarat had come as a shot in the arm for the party. Which is why even as the votes were being counted, Congress rushed in its two top political managers - Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath - to Shillong to cobble together a majority. Congress clearly does not want to repeat the mistakes it made in Manipur and Goa last year.

More importantly, in power politics, winning and forming government - even by the slender margin - is what counts. And it matters to register oneself on the score board, especially if general elections are just round the corner.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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