CPM's password was a divide, BJP's challenge is unite

The Crossed Eye : Sanjib Deb

Journalists and election experts visited Tripura before and after the 2018 state assembly elections were searching reply to two questions. The first one, what was the secret behind the CPI(M) led Left Front government's staying in power uninterruptedly for a quarter of a century. The second one was how long the new coalition government led by Bharatiya Janata Party will be able to stay in power in Tripura where it hardly had any presence even a few years ago.

Being in the field of journalism for several decades in this state and witness of every political change with an active role in reporting, such questions used to shake me too. In fact, since long I was searching the reply and so far the first question is concerned, found some reply long back. I have dished out my findings in one of my articles published in Dainik Sambad on September 21, 2002.

The article captioned 'Bhag Kare Shasan Karo Nitir Safal Prayog E CPMer Dirgha Sasaner Gopon Rahashya'. The main content of the article was, successful implementation of the 'divide and rule' policy is the secret behind prolonged CPI(M) role in the state. The article analyzed how the CPI(M) since 1977 carefully created division among the tribal and non-tribal of the state and extract electoral gain from it. The 1980 riot and many other gruesome killings by the insurgents were the by-product of this policy.

The CPI(M) led governments were very much complacent about the success of this policy till the insurgents, who were used as weapon for maintaining this division, turned boomerang and ousted the CPI(M) from power in the TTAADC in the year 2000. This has forced the CPI(M) led government to change its policy and to take a decisive stand against the insurgents. The then Director General of Police B L Vohra is in his book 'Tripura's Bravehearts' also hinted this as reason for Left Front Government’s change in policy. 

The Left Front government gave a free hand to the police and security forces to fight the insurgents. It gave relief to the people and by 2008 the menace of insurgency virtually got eliminated from the state. It paved the way for the return of peace and tribal and non-tribal people started meeting each other like before. The peace returned but it becomes detrimental to the CPI(M)'s political equation of divide and rule.  

As the fear of insurgency got eliminated, both the tribal and non-tribal started getting closer and it drifted CPI(M) away from both the sides especially the tribal who were considered by the party as their vote bank for long. The feeling that they were the biggest loser of insurgency drifted tribal away from CPI(M) and turned them against the Left Front government.

The CPI(M) leadership also realized the fact and expressed concern in the 20th conference of the Tripura Rajya Upajati Ganamukti Parishad held at Khowai in 2013. They were especially worried over the fact that the younger generation is not getting attracted to the Marxist party. The new development also was highlighted by this columnist in the article captioned as 'Madhyabitta Upajati, udbigna CPM' ( Tribal middle-class worries CPM) published in Dainik Sambad on December 11, 2013.  

No less then leaders like the then Chief Minister and Polit Bureau member Manik Sarkar, Finance Minister Bhanu Lal Saha and the then President of GMP Narayan Rupini expressed their concern in writing but were unable to take any corrective measure to regain the party's position. The economic activities returned in the tribal areas with the return of peace were the biggest concern for them and all of them accused the newly found middle-class status of the tribal and spread of education as responsible for the elimination of the tribal from the clutch of the party.

The complacency and overconfidence of the leaders led to its humiliating defeat in the 2018 assembly election. As part of its divide and rule policy the CPI(M) had taken both the tribal and the scheduled casts as granted and received the biggest rebuff from these two sections only. Out of 20 tribal reserve seats the CPI(M) could retain two only while out of ten SC reserve seats they got another two reducing the party's overall tally from ----------to 16 only.  It proves a mass revolt against CPI(M) led Left Front from these two sections.
Though a totally unknown element, the BJP made a strong bid to fill the gap. The rebellious mass of the CPI(M) and the entire non-left voters virtually rallied behind BJP. Lucrative promises and assurances from high profile leaders including the Prime Minister, finance minister and the BJP President only acted as an alluring factor in the process. That too was not enough as BJP hardly has any organizational base to mobilize the tribal voters. It provoked the party to go for an alliance with Indigenous Peoples’ Front of Twipra (IPFT) who thrived banking on a highly divisive slogan like a separate state. BJP did not accept the separate state demand but the alliance worked positively in their favor.

The Congress also made a similar experiment earlier with TJUS and then INPT but could not retain their sway over the flow of event and got marginalized in the political scene of the state. Now it is the turn of the BJP to experiment on how to channelize the two divergent streams in one confluence. Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb is giving slogan 'Eak Tripura, Sreshta Tripura' while his alliance partner Led by Narendra Chandra Debbarma and Mever Kumar Jamatia  is demanding for a separate state. How they are to bring these two streams together is the biggest question now.

While reviewing the poll results of 1918 this columnist had written 'No victory for BJP, defeat for left' published in North East Colors on June 16, 2018. Under this circumstance retaining power for a long time for BJP is possible only through maintaining unity among the two communities. This was the challenge for Congress too who failed miserably.

 Unlike Congress, BJP is very much conscious about such a reality. Being a national party they never succumbed to the presser of the regional one and retained at least one seat more than the IPFT during the formation of the alliance. Since the formation of the government many conflicts are surfacing between the two and the BJP has already sent the message that being the bigger constituent they are not going to sacrifice their supremacy.

Considering the political developments in the state it can be presumed that the BJP-IPFT will be able to maintain their party level unity but what is going to be the biggest challenge before the BJP is maintaining unity among the people, projecting an alternative policy of maintaining unity among tribal and Bengalis against the CPM’s policy of divide and rule only can work as a game-winner for BJP. 

The task is difficult but what made it harder is the emergence of a new force called Pradyot Bikram Kishor Debbarman. His attempt to revive the royal legacy, going out of all politics, is piercing both the BJP and CPI(M). It is to be seen how the BJP leadership establishes their plank of unity over their rival’s strength in dividing the society. 
• Writer is the Editor of North East Colors 

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