The Election Commission this week announced polls to the three northeastern states of Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland. While Tripura will vote on February 16, Meghalaya and Nagaland will go to polls on February 27.
The results will be out on March 2. Elections in these states have their own significance, and out of these, the battle for Tripura is attracting the most attention. In the 2018 polls, the BJP came to power for the first time by defeating its ideological rival CPI(M), which had been ruling the state since 1993.
This time the battle has become more interesting with the two main arch rivals — CPI(M) and Congress — burying their rivalry to defeat the BJP. The leadership of both parties for the first time held a press conference together where CPI(M)’s state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury, Left Front convenor Narayan Kar, Congress state president Birajit Sinha, lone Congress MLA Sudip Roy Barman and Congress leader Ashish Saha were present.
Representatives from smaller parties like RSP, CPI, Forward Bloc, CPI(ML) Liberation and Tripura People’s Party (TPP) were also present. TPP is the latest one to join the anti-BJP platform, the Secular Democratic Forces.
However, a smooth seat-sharing agreement remains a challenge for both CPI(M) and Congress. The leaders of both parties also accepted that the deal is yet to be finalised. CPI(M), which won 16 seats last time, will not be ready to share many with the Congress, which failed to open its account last time.
Although in recent times, Congress has gained strength, it is far behind the CPI(M), which too has been organising programmes in all constituencies of the state. The Kailashahar assembly seat, which was a bastion for Congress state president Birajit Sinha, was won by CPI(M)’s Moboshar Ali. It is unlikely that the Left party is going to share this seat with the Congress.
On the other hand, according to local media, Congress is willing to contest the Radhakishorepur seat, which was the only seat contested by RSP last time. Also, Congress is likely to field Ashish Saha from Town Bardowali contested by Forward Bloc last time. Although CPI, Forward Bloc and RSP are mostly dependent on CPI(M), these small allies will likely try to exert pressure on the latter through their national leadership to have their own candidates.
The national leadership of CPI(M) is also likely to avoid any kind of bitter differences with its Left allies, and the state leadership is also aware of this difficult situation. On the other hand, CPI(ML) Liberation, although part of the anti-BJP platform, has announced to go alone. However, this time it will contest less number of seats to prevent the division of anti-BJP votes.
Pradyot’s TIPRA Motha is yet to open its cards
This week Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, also the chairman of North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), met with Pradyot in New Delhi. It has to be mentioned that Himanta was the man who sealed the deal with NC Debbarma-led Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) last time — and it was IPFT’s support that helped the BJP to defeat the CPI(M).
Knowing that Pradyot is a hard nut to be cracked, Himanta has finally stepped in to persuade him. On the other hand, the Left-Congress alliance is also hopeful that Pradyot will join them. From the Opposition camp, it is CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Chaudhury who has been trying to persuade Pradyot.
Jitendra, who also heads the Gana Mukti Parishad, the tribal wing of CPI(M), shares a good bond with Pradyot and has said that if Greater Tipraland is about securing the rights and for the development of the tribals, then his party has no problem, although he is against geographical bifurcation of the state. CPI(M) and the royal family of Tripura didn’t have a good bonding in the past but under Jitendra, that gap seems to be reducing.
There are 20 reserved seats in the state assembly for Scheduled Tribes and apart from these, there are around 15-16 with a sizable presence of tribals. TIPRA Motha currently dominates the tribal belt and is the ruling party of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC). That’s the reason both the BJP and the Left-Congress alliance are trying to bring them on their sides.
Mamata addresses large rally in Mendipathar of Meghalaya
This week West Bengal chief minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee addressed a large crowd rally in Mendipathar of Meghalaya where her main target was BJP, which won only two seats last time. The saffron party is one of the partners in the National People’s Party-led Meghalaya Democratic Alliance (MDA).
She alleged that the NPP-led government was run from New Delhi and Guwahati. Such type of allegation against NPP isn’t new; the TMC supremo in her last December visit too had then alleged the same.
The Mendipathar MLA Jimmy D Sangma, who was with TMC, has recently joined the NPP, which has now declared him as the party candidate from here. This constituency falls in the Garo Hills. The large turnout at Mamata’s rally shows that the party is a strong contender in the Garo region, which has 24 assembly seats.
Bihar-based parties eye Nagaland to get the National Party status
The two ruling allies of Bihar — Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United) — have set their eyes on the northeastern state of Nagaland. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) has got the state party status in three states — Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. It needs to get the state party status in another state to get the national party status. The party is yet to decide the number of seats it is going to contest in the state.
JD(U) always had a presence in Nagaland. In the 2003 elections, it got three seats with a vote share of 5.8 per cent, while it scored a blank in the 2008 elections. The party was able to win a seat in 2013. During the last 2018 elections, the party again won a seat with a vote share of 4.49 per cent. If it repeats its 2003 performance, JD(U) will get the state party status and ultimately satisfy the criteria to get the national party status.
Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD too isn’t new in the state. However, it never won a seat like JD(U). The party’s best performance was in the 2008 state assembly polls when it polled 6.56 per cent votes. This time the party, as reported by the media, is likely to contest 11 seats. Unlike JD(U), RJD is quite behind in the race to get the national party status.
Once it was a national party and even had a presence in the Manipur assembly but currently has the state party status only in Bihar.