Kolkata: With All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) announcing the formation of Tripura Trinamool Congress state steering committee and the state youth committee recently, there is a fresh buzz in the hill state.
Regular joining-ins in the AITC or TMC to make its organizational base strong the battle for the northeastern state is truly on.
With state elections still one-and-a-half year away, the bugle of its arrival in Tripura has been sounded by the Trinamool Congress.
The flashpoint over the denial of a permit to hold a rally by TMC’s All India General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee has set the tone for a political and tactical clash between the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the TMC.
TMC leaders allege that in order to avoid Abhishek Banerjee from holding his rally inAgartala, the state-imposed Section 144, which means a ban on public gatherings by anyone.
But, Tripura TMC through its recent Twitter posts has been quick in pointing out various violations against Section 144 by the ruling BJP government.
On October 6, one of the tweets by the party read: “Tripura CM Biplab Deb violates Section 144 again!”
The same day, BJP got a setback and TMC a boost when Tripura MLA Ashish Das joined Mamata’s party in Kolkata.
Ashish Das had made headlines as he had shaved his head claiming, it was an act of penance before joining TMC. Several Tripura Congress leaders have also joined TMC. Some reports also suggest that since TMC’s mammoth win Bengal Assembly Polls 2021, more than 60,000 workers from different political parties including BJP, joined the party so far.
While the political pundits are diligently observing the happenings in Tripura, one question which is popping up in everyone’s mind is: Will an aggressive TMC be able to dislodge BJP in 2023?
Manas Pal, the executive editor of Tripura Times, has been reading the pulse from ‘Ground Zero’. He feels that the ruling party in Bengal will have to tread cautiously to gain acceptance in the hill state. Anti-incumbency, which the TMC leaders are trying to harp on right now cannot be a major factor for their win.
“There is an anti-incumbency drive, but that is on a superficial level. Tripura has always been seen as a place of bipolar politics. Earlier, it was the Congress and Left. It gave way to Left-BJP. TMC is now trying to find a base. Unlike in Bengal, ‘Bangla’ sentiment will not work much in Tripura, which has seen Bengali-tribal riots in the ’80s,” says Pal.
He says that the tribal population will play a big role in the formation of any government. “With 30% of the tribal population, slogans like ‘Didi Ke Chai’ will not cut much ice. In Bengal, there is 37% of the minority population, of which the majority voted for the TMC. Here in Tripura, Muslims constitute only 7% of the population,” said Pal.
He also points out that building acceptance will be a big challenge for Mamata in Tripura.
Senior journalist and an expert on the northeast, a son of the soil, Subir Bhaumik says TMC is trying to draw in former Congressmen, who joined the BJP and are unhappy with the Biplab Deb-run government.
“With the advent of the TMC, the BJP now is an on unstable ground as the Congress turncoats in the BJP now has a natural affiliation to move towards the TMC as it shares a similar ideology. If TMC can project itself as a viable option, then the BJP should feel threatened,” said Bhaumik.
The veteran BBC journalist says that there are many ex-Congressmen, who feel that though they have helped the BJP form the government, they have not been given enough powers in the party set-up. “These people would naturally want to side with the TMC. Also, after the big Trinamool win in Bengal, they have managed to secure the confidence of people not only amongst the Bengali-speaking people but in other places too. All this is the reason for the BJP to feel threatened. And precisely, that is the reason why the Tripura administration is being used by the government to scuttle any chances of TMC setting up base in Tripura,” he said.
Bhaumik concurs with Pal that the success of the BJP will depend on how they handle the tribal situation. “If the BJP manages to arrive at an understanding with the tribal people, then the TMC will find it tough to make a mark.”
The Rajbanshis, the Gorkhas and many other tribal people were also given to understand that BJP is more sympathetic to them being a non-Bengali party in Bengal. They will play that card in Tripura too,” he said.
Newly-elected Rajya Sabha TMC MP Sushmita Dev, who is one of the key leaders in the party’s new steering committee for Tripura said, “In the past seven years of governance at the Centre and three-and-a-half-year rule in Tripura, the BJP has done little and the people of the state know this well enough. Many burning problems have not been fulfilled. Hemanta Biswa Sarma in 2018 had told the people of Tripura to give him a missed call and that one person from every household will get a job. Now the jobs have vanished and so has Biswa Sarma. The kind of response we are getting from people from all areas, rural as well as urban, we are confident that we will be able to form a strong party organization here.”
In response, Subrata Chakraborty, BJP Tripura spokesperson says BJP is not worried about the drama TMC is enacting in the state. “The leaders from Bengal are coming here with a dramatic script prepared to humiliate people of the state and how to cause disturbance here. People are not taking it well. They have thrice been defeated in Tripura. They are trying to get votes by confusing people.”