‘Despite TMC’s bid to establish itself in Tripura, it has failed to gather the kind of support the party had been expecting’.
NEW DELHI: The bypolls to four Assembly constituencies in Tripura later this month will be a litmus test for the Trinamool Congress (TMC). Political observers from the state say that the bypoll results will be crucial as they would be a precursor to next year’s Assembly elections in the state where TMC is trying its luck for the first time. The TMC has put up candidates in all the four seats–Agartala, Jubarajnagar, Surma and Town Bardowali–that are going to face the electoral mandate on 23 June. It will be a crucial test for the TMC to establish itself as an electoral force in the coming days.
However, local sources that this newspaper spoke to said that even though the TMC has been putting in effort to establish itself in Tripura, it has still not been able to gather the amount of support that the party had been expecting. Local sources also told this correspondent that the “massive” rally that TMC’s second-in-command and national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee held in Tripura earlier this week did not garner much support. Locals say it was a “flop” show as the crowds in the rally were thin and the TMC was unable to bring people out on the streets to cheer for their star campaigner.
The TMC has also sent in a battery of their leaders, including ministers and MPs from Bengal to campaign for their four candidates–Panna Deb (Agartala), Mrinal Kanti Debnath (Jubarajnagar), Arjun Namasudra (Surma) and Sanhita Bhattacharya (Town Bardowali), many of whom have been camping in the state for the last couple of weeks. Sources in the Prashant Kishor led I-PAC, which is handling the campaign of the TMC in Tripura, also told this newspaper that it looks difficult for the party this time around. “TMC’s chances this time are very thin. Maybe in one seat, Surma, the TMC could come up as the second political party, but winning any seat is very difficult. Unlike Bengal, here both the Congress as well as the CPM is still strong; so breaking into their bastion is a difficult task,” an executive working with I-PAC told The Sunday Guardian.
The I-PAC executive further added that the BJP’s timing to change Biplab Deb and replace him with someone as “gentleman” as Dr Manik Saha has arrested the huge anti-incumbency of the BJP. This was also echoed by seasoned journalists, locals as well as a section of the BJP from Tripura that this correspondent spoke to. They said that replacing Biplab Deb with Dr Manik Saha as the Chief Minister of Tripura, who is also contesting the by-election from the Town Bardowali seat, has been a “masterstroke” by the BJP. “This decision came although late, but will work for the benefit of the BJP. This was a much-needed change and many of our colleagues had been saying this to the leaders in Delhi, but none listened then. They only heard us when the water was about to go over our heads,” a BJP leader from Tripura told this newspaper. A journalist from Tripura also told this correspondent that the people who were miffed with Biplab Deb’s high-handedness and undemocratic decision making are seeing a change with Dr Manik Saha’s administration. The journalist further added that while Biplab Deb used to travel with a convoy of 15 cars, blocking roads and inconveniencing people, Dr Manik Saha travels with just 3-4 cars and no stopping of regular traffic movements.
However, while this by-election would test the relevance of the TMC in Tripura, it would also put the BJP to test on whether the party has actually been able to contain the anti-incumbency that the party faced in the last four years during the administration of the Biplab Deb-led BJP government in the state. Sources following the elections closely in Tripura have predicted that the BJP is likely to win on at least two of the four seats, while one is likely to go to the CPM, while the other would be a tough contest between the erstwhile BJP’s state cabinet minister and now Congress candidate Sudip Roy Barman and BJP’s Ashok Sinha.