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Is BJP on shaky grounds in Tripura?

Attacks on caders and the state leadership’s apathy to take action make grassroots workers unhappy

Shillong: Recent political developments in Tripura indicate that there is deep discontentment among grassroots level workers of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) over the way the ruling party leadership is functioning in the northeastern state.

Violent incidents, including one this July, in the last couple of years have shaken party workers’ confidence and made them wonder whether the “real workers” are being sidelined for the new entrants.

Tripura’s paribartan or the change came in 2018 when the 25-year-old Left Front government was toppled and the saffron party, for the first time in the northeastern state, formed the government in alliance with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT). But as power equations changed, BJP saw new entrants from the Congress and the Left and “those who did the groundwork for the 2018 victory were ignored”, claimed a party source.

In the beginning of July, armed and masked goons, numbering over 200, attacked the house of BJP karyakarta (cader) and former spokesperson of the state BJP Prasenjit Chakraborty. The goons attacked the senior party worker’s family members too.

Speculations are that they were sent by the BJP state leadership because Chakraborty was criticising the party on social media.

“Recently, all my social media activities, particularly videos, highlighted the importance and ignorance of the party karyakartas who devoted themselves to the betterment of the party. I never said a single word against BJP. I wanted the wrongdoings to be corrected so that workers live in a better condition and the popularity of the party increases. The central leadership needs to realise this fact in time,” Chakraborty told this correspondent on phone from Agartala.

Chakraborty became a member of BJP in 1999. He had joined the Collegetila Shakha of RSS, in 1997 itself. Chakraborty was the party’s state convener and was also in the intellectual cell. He was crucial in sealing the party’s first electoral victory in Tripura in the 2014 gram panchayat elections. Then why was his introspection considered an anti-party activity?

When asked, Tripura BJP chief Dr Manik Saha said Chakraborty was not a party member. “He was with the party a long time back but he has not been there since 2017. The party has no connection with him,” he added.

There were reports of similar attacks on grassroots workers. The correspondent spoke to several karyakartas, all of whom narrated their experience but preferred to remain anonymous fearing backlash.

BJP tripura caders workers northeast
The IPFT, BJP’s alliance partner had held a 24-hour strike at Khumulwng in July I Courtesy: Indian Express

A grassroots level worker and panchayat committee member who is associated with the party since 2004 said, “What we did for the party was forgotten soon after the victory.”

This worker’s father and son were beaten up by unidentified miscreants in August 2019 because he reported against some members for their anti-party activities. “Even during the Left Front government, my house was never attacked,” he said.

“We have been betrayed by our own people,” said another karyakarta.

The new entrants in the BJP are allegedly enjoying more power than the old workers, “many of whom were removed from old party positions and many were insulted in the public”.

Another BJP worker sounded exasperated while talking about the party’s achievements in the last two and a half years. “In the past two and a half years, the voters have lost their faith. Many are thinking that the earlier government was better,” he added.

Several karyakartas said with conviction that the 2023 election in the state “will be a disaster for the BJP if the party leadership fails to protect its foot soldiers”.

A panchayat pradhan, who has been associated with the party for the last 25 years, expressed his helplessness in executing development works. According to him, new members often create hurdles and “don’t even bother to take my consent in official works”.

The situation was raised with the state leadership but no action was taken, he informed.
When pointed out about the sluggish development work, state BJP chief Saha denied the allegations. “Work at the grassroots level is going on very well. But in the current situation, our main aim is to serve people and protect them from the pandemic and we are doing the work well,” he added.

Biplab Kumar Deb, the chief minister of Tripura, is also losing popularity among party workers. “People voted for BJP because of Modi (Narendra Modi). Nobody knew Deb before,” said a worker.

But Saha disagrees, “It was him (Deb) who brought down the Left Front government. We have faith in Deb as he is doing a good job,” he answered when asked about Deb’s popularity.

The internal bickering apart, the BJP in Tripura is also witnessing dissent among allied partners. In the beginning of this year, IPFT had demanded another Cabinet berth, besides the two ministers it has. Some IPFT leaders also alleged that BJP did not fulfil the promises it made to the local party.

Mebar Jamatia, IPFT general secretary and state minister, said alliances always have problems and those should be solved through dialogues. “IPFT is a regional party with a tribal base. There will be differences in ideologies and it is only two years (of the new government). There are problems but we will adjust,” he added.

On the demands, like development of the council areas and recognition of Kokborok language, Jamatia said IPFT leaders had met BJP leaders in Delhi and “we are waiting for the report of a high-level committee under the Home Ministry”.

“Now that lockdown is there, Parliament is not in session. So we are waiting for decisions on various issues,” he added.

However, he admitted that “pure BJP workers who are committed to the causes” in Tripura are less as many people from other parties have joined the party.

While the ally is banking on dialogues, the party’s own men are losing faith and they believe that the hierarchy needs to strengthen the roots of the party. “But if things go on like this then you can be assured that BJP will not even get two seats in 2023,” said a panchayat member and BJP cader.

Nabamita Mitra

is a freelance journalist and is associated with The Shillong Times

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