Himanta Biswa Sarma and Ram Madhav’s efforts in Tripura are all set to make the BJP the principal opposition party in the hill state, with all six Trinamool Congress MLAs likely to defect to it.

At least two TMC MLAs confirmed to The Sunday Guardian that the defection will take place “either in the end of June or in the first week of July”. 

In exclusive information available to this newspaper, the group of six agreed to join the BJP after Sarma and Madhav promised they will leave 15 of the state Assembly’s 60 seats to them and their supporters in the elections due early next year. The six TMC MLAs are Sudip Roy Barman, Biswabandhu Sen, Dibachandra Hrangkhawal, Ashish Saha, Dilip Sarkar and Pranjit Singha Roy.

This newspaper has learnt that Sarma and Ram Madhav are on a mission to ensure the defection of more and more MLAs en bloc into the BJP ahead of the crucial presidential election and are in touch with Congress MLAs also. Sources told this reporter that Ratan Lal Nath of Congress, MLA from Mohanpur, west Tripura, has made up his mind to join the BJP. 

According to sources in the BJP and TMC’s Tripura unit, Sarma, minister in the BJP-led Assam government and convener of North-East Democratic Alliance, played an important role as negotiator with the six MLAs. A TMC source told this reporter that the six MLAs were disillusioned with Mamata Banerjee’s lack of interest in Tripura and started responding to overtures from the BJP post the byelections in Khowai and Barjala, in which it made massive inroads. In Barjala, the BJP finished a close second to the CPM, which won both the seats.

“There is no doubt about Mamata Banerjee’s administrative skills, but she is unable to give us adequate time and people’s enthusiasm is now 100% for the BJP. Himanta Biswa Sarma and Ram Madhav took up the initiative and started negotiating directly with us for a complete merger with the BJP,” a TMC MLA told this reporter. He added that the main obstacle coming in the way of the defection was lack of clarity on how many seats the BJP will leave for these six MLAs and their core supporters. “We were particular that there has to be a prior agreement on it as, once we join the BJP, we will have no option but to accept the BJP’s whip. Our demand was 20, but it came down to 15. Currently, we have agreed for seats between 12 and 15,” the source said. He added the idea of defection was explored as it became apparent that Mamata Banerjee will not agree to an alliance or even a hidden understanding with the BJP in the next state elections.

Sarma, minister in the BJP-led Assam government and convener of North-East Democratic Alliance, played an important role as negotiator with the six MLAs.

Another TMC MLA said that joining hands with the BJP will “create a vigorous atmosphere to dislodge the CPM government”, which has been in power for over two decades in the north-eastern state. 

“The ‘Marxists’ have been able to hang on to power by creating fear psychosis and getting a whole network of bureaucrats make the atmosphere in their favour during the elections. The BJP is trying to reduce that fear psychosis,” the MLA said. He added: “To fight the CPM, the administration should be neutral, which is possible only if the Central government interferes to provide a neutral administration at the time of the election.”

He said that the people of Tripura, fed up with growing unemployment and CPM’s high-handed regime, are desperate for a non-Congress party to take on the Left. 

“The Congress always sacrifised Tripura to make political arrangements with the Left. In 1993, President’s Rule was imposed just 48 hours before the Assembly elections, in order to please the CPM. At that time, the Congress was running a minority government at the Centre. The CPM had indicated to the Congress that they would not allow the Budget to be passed if President’s Rule was not imposed in Tripura,” he said.

Another source added: “With the TMC’s failed experiment in the state, the BJP has great chances of winning the state next year. The opposition’s combined vote percent in the 2013 election was 46%. If the BJP is able to present itself as the alternative to the CPM, the anti-Left voters will unite behind it.” Currently, there are 765,000 unemployed youths in the state.

TMC’s Tripura president Ashish Saha, however, said defection was not likely. “Everything depends on individual opinion. If you go by united opinion, we are with the TMC and we are not joining the BJP. But we feel that in order to defeat the CPM, we and other opposition parties should unite,” he told this reporter.

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