Civic polls, who stands where

The Crossed Eye/ Sanjib Deb

November 22, 2021, 13:04:57   

Civic polls, who stands where

The state is going to witness one more major election with some exceptions. The state is known for its polarized nature of politics between left and non-left for long. The left forces were led by the Communist Party of India (Marxist) while the Congress was the main force on the other side. The regional parties like Tripura Upajati Juba Samity, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura, or the Indigenous Peoples’ Front f Tripura only played the second fiddle on the anti-left side.


The 2018 assembly election witnessed a major change in the state political diagram when the Bharatiya Janata Party replaced the Indian National Congress as the main force in the anti-left camp and allied with the IPFT. The Congress or INPT also remained in the fray but fought a symbolic war only and hardly had any role in determining the outcome.


In the election, the BJP won the absolute majority with 36 seats while its alliance partner IPFT won eight seats and CPI(M) got 16 seats eliminating all other parties on the sideline. A notable change was that despite being in alliance with IPFT, the BJP for the first time emerged as a major force in the hilly areas of the state winning the highest number of nine tribal reserve seats. It had further strengthened the impression that the state's known political diagram of left and non-left polarization is going to persist.


The set impression suffered a jerk in the election of Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council when the royal scion Pradyot Bikram Kishor Debbarman started a revivalist movement and his newly formed party the TIPRA Motha gained sufficient ground. It also won an absolute majority with 18 seats in the 28 member council. The notable feature of the outcome is that the left got totally eliminated from the hills, once used to be considered as their bastion while the BJP emerged as a major force winning 10 seats.


Under this backdrop, the election of the twenty civic bodies of the state including the Agartala Municipal Corporation is going to be held on November 25. The TTAADC election has given us an impression about the sentiments of the people living in the hills and now we are going to get an idea about the thinking pattern of the plain people as mostly the urban people are going to cast vote in this election.


The role of TTAADC and the civic bodies are totally different and the characteristics of the voters are also. But we are finding one thing common in both the elections. In the TTAADC elections, the TIPRA Motha suddenly appeared as a third fore and the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool Congress playing the same role in the civic elections. That means this is for the first time the election in the state is going to witness a tri-corner contest in a real sense. The Congress and some other forces are also in the fray but not likely to play any significant role and not in a position to influence the outcome.


The run-up for the civic elections was not smooth as in many of the Municipal Councils and Nagar Panchayats the opposition political parties could not file their nominations. Following the tradition set in the state for the last few decades, the ruling party emerged winner uncontested in a large number of seats. There is no need of holding elections in seven civic bodies as no contestants other than the ruling party candidates filed nomination. The opposition alleges that they could not file nominations due to terrorization while the ruling party says the opposition’s popularity has dropped to such an extent that they don’t find candidates to fight for them.


Despite all these the election is going to be held in a few civic bodies and all the political parties have made Agartala Municipal Council their bulls' eye. It becomes a war of attrition for the ruling BJP and the Trinamool Congress while it is a litmus test for the CPI(M) to remain relevant in state politics for the days to come.

It is generally believed that the ruling party gains in a triangular contest as the opposition vote gets divided between the contesting opposition parties. In this calculation, BJP is set to be a gainer in these civic body elections. It is possible that apart from getting the natural advantage of being in power, the party has built a strong organizational base in the last three years. Now it is to be seen if the organization based on the Pristha Pramokhs and others can overcome the challenge posed by the dissidents in the party and the anti-incumbency factors.


Being emotionally surcharged after the victory in West Bengal Mamata Banerjee let her Aswamedh Horses loose to capture other states in different directions and Tripura is her first target. Her ambition to become an all-India leader by applying corporate tactics and celebrities may get frustrated in Tripura due to the absence of an organizational base and most importantly the absence of a face to reckon with.


Pursuing big ambitions is good but one must be aware of its limitations. Trinamool Congress is a regional party and based on the charisma of a leader, like all its peers, in the country. Mamata Banerjee should note that none of the regional parties in the country could go beyond the jurisdiction of their state. Leaders like Sarad Power, Mayabati has failed and Arvind Kejriwal is now experimenting. Let us see how Mamata Banerjee’s experiment succeeds.


This election is a litmus test for the CPI(M) which is yet to wake up from the slumber following the shocking defeat after long 25-years. The death of two senior leaders Bijon Dhar and Gautam Das who actually was looking after the organizational affairs is a major setback for the party and the newly appointed secretary Jiten Choudhury has not got enough time to rejuvenate the workers. It is to be seen how the party faces the situation.