Left Front Aspires to Break Winning Margin Records
THE Tripura East (ST) Lok Sabha seat is to go to poll on April 12. Spread over Dhalai, Khowai North, Unakoti and a part of both Gomati and South Tripura districts, this constituency has 30 assembly segments. Since the first general election of 1952, this constituency has been a stronghold of the Left. Out of the 15 elections held so far, it has sent communist members to parliament ten times. It was this seat which legendary communist leader, Comrade Dasharath Deb, used to contest. In 1952 he contested from this seat while he was underground. Since 1980, CPI(M) Central Committee member and AARM chairman, Bajuban Reang, has been contesting from here and was elected seven times. His performance in implementation of the MP local area development fund was impressive, with percentage of money spent being 84; a number of projects are still going on. The Congress won the seat only five times --- twice during the infamous Congress-TUJS terror regime of 1988-92 when the ruling combine resorted to unprecedented rigging. Today the constituency has an electorate of 11,37,127. The 2009 election result is a clear indication for this time too. In 2009, the Left Front bagged a record 63.47 percent of valid votes, its winning margin being more than 2,95,000. Then, in the 2013 assembly elections, the Left Front won 27 of the 30 assembly segments. The Left Front supported CPI(M) candidate for Tripura East, Jitendra Choudhury, is no doubt miles ahead of his rivals. A CPI(M) state committee member since 1988 and a state cabinet member since 1993, Choudhury is getting warm response in every corner of the state. Apart from being a member of the AIKS CKC and an AARM office bearer, he is also assistant secretary of Ganamukti Parishad. His administrative skills as a minister are well known; as the rural development minister he led the state to achieving the honour of best performing state in MGNREGA implementation for five consecutive years. The constituency is set to have a multi-cornered contest, with a total of 12 candidates being in the fray. Apart from the usual contestants, the CPI(M) and the Congress, the TMC, BJP and IPFT too have fielded a candidate each. Congress candidate for the seat is Sachitra Debbarma. Though the INPT has joined hands with the Congress, its rank and file are not happy with the decision. A majority of them were in favour of supporting the TMC or putting up own candidate. The Congress-INPT combine is finding it hard to keep its support base intact as hundreds of their workers are joining hands with the Left Front everyday. The Congress had a dismal show of youth rally on March 20 while merely 5,000 attended Rahul Gandhi’s mass meeting on March 25. The party is struggling hard to maintain its second position; its leaders and cadres are so demoralised that they have not planned any big meeting in the constituency. Though the TMC is talking of a surprise result and may eat up a sizeable portion of Congress votes, it too does not seem very interested; neither Ms Mamata Banerjee nor any other prominent TMC leader is scheduled to hold any big rally in the constituency. Given the increasing support of the Left in the state and the disarrayed position of the opposition to date, one may expect a landslide LF victory here. LF AGAIN AHEAD IN WEST TRIPURA As the day of polling approaches, the people of Tripura West Lok Sabha constituency seem all set to repose their faith in the Left Front for the seventh term in a row. The constituency consists of 30 assembly constituencies spread over the West, Sepahijala, and parts of Gomati and South Tripura districts. It has sent communist candidates to the parliament 11 times in the 16 elections held. Communist candidates won from here in 1952, 1962, 1971, 1980, 1984, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2002 (by-election), 2004 and 2009. Stalwarts like Biren Dutta, Badal Choudhury and Samar Choudhury have represented this seat. Since 2002, Left Front convener Khagen Das has been representing this seat. His performance is also worth mentioning. According to the available figures, 11.71 crore rupees out of the 12 crore sanctioned under the MP local area development fund were spent in different welfare schemes during the fiscal 2010-11, 2011-12 and 2012-13. The seat attracted national attention in 1991 when the whole polling was rigged. It was unprecedented and the CPI(M) had to withdraw its candidate, Manik Sarkar. The number of ballots polled for notorious Congress candidate, Santosh Mohan Deb, exceeded the total electorate. But since 1996, the CPI(M) has never lost this seat. In 2009, the CPI(M)’s winning margin was of 2,48,549 votes. It got 60.14 percent of votes cast here and excelled over the closest Congress-INPT rival in each of the 30 assembly segments. In the 2013 assembly election, the Left Front bagged 23 out of these 30 seats. This time the LF is aiming at a lead in all the 30 seats, as in 2009, and at an enhanced margin. The constituency has an electorate of 12,46,019. The Left Front’s candidate here is Shankar Prasad Dutta, a CPI(M) state committee member and state CITU general secretary. He appears heading for a landslide victory. His campaign started on March 10 and is getting encouraging response everywhere. In almost every meeting a sizeable number of participants were those who were till recently in the Congress-INPT camp; they are openly making declarations to work for the Left Front. The campaign picked up momentum when CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and chief minister Manik Sarkar started his series of mass meetings. The contest will be multi-cornered, with 13 candidates in fray. The Congress nominee is Dr Arunoday Saha, former vice chancellor of Tripura Central University, who is known for his rabid anti-communism and close links with US officials. He is alleged to have indulged in a number of financial irregularities during his tenure as vice chancellor. Notably, this time there was no rivalry inside the Congress for the seat as none of its known leaders dared to contest. The TMC too has fielded a candidate. But angry over the TMC’s unwillingness to forge an alliance, former Congress MLA and Tripura Gramin Congress leader, Subal Bhowmik, has also joined the fray. There is also a BJP candidate here. But the Congress seems demoralised. Its much touted central rally, with Rahul Gandhi as the main speaker, turned out to be a miserable flop show. Its workers are reluctant to fight a lost battle. TRIPURA CM FLAYS CONGRESS PROMISES Faking sympathy for the people is an old trick of the Congress party, and it is seen in its election manifesto also. They always do this before elections but forget all the promises after the results are out, and go on stabbing the poor with anti-people laws and policies. So said Manik Sarkar in different rallies organised as a part of the campaign in Tripura in support of Left Front candidates. On March 26, two big public meetings, followed by huge processions, took place at Kathalia and Dhanpur in Sonamura subdivision. People from different walks of life came there in thousands to show support for the Left Front nominated CPI(M) candidate in West Tripura Lok Sabha seat. Both the meetings had had many new faces and females in large numbers. So far a total of 354 new voters from 116 families have left the Congress-INPT alliance and declared to work for the Left Front in future. Mahila Congress district president of the area also joined the procession. Several other Congress office bearers too were present in the two rallies. Starting from Mrs Indira Gandhi’s slogan of “Garibi Hatao,” Manik Sarkar asked how much the Congress or Congress led governments, presided over by Rajiv Gandhi, Narsimha Rao or Dr Manmohan Singh, have done to remove poverty. Sarkar urged the Tripura people to cast their votes for the Left candidates. On March 27, Sarkar attended two rallies at Rajnagar and Belonia in South Tripura district. In spite of the scorching heat of March and the humid conditions, people joined those rallies in large numbers. Many of them walked for miles to come to the meeting grounds. Once there was a time when, due to scarcity of water in the months of March to June, the whole area of Rajnagar had to face severe drought conditions. But the picture is different today. While going through the main road, one notices lush green paddy or vegetable fields all along. This greenery is a product of the well planned watershed management system instituted by the Left Front government of the state. Besides, seeds and fertilisers at reasonable rates, state induced bank loan facilities at low interest etc, have also played an important role in the happiness of farmers of Tripura. Manik Sarkar asked for an extension of this alternative outlook to the whole country. He said that price hike, joblessness, malnutrition and scarcity of food are a part of the lives of poor people in India. People are fed up with the Congress policies. Hence the slogan to oust the Congress. But the BJP advocates the same economic policies and is at the same time striving to divide the masses on communal line. It too must be defeated resoundingly. Only a secular, democratic alternative can implement such pro-people policies as may provide relief to the people. But forging such an alternative requires an increase in the strength of the Left as a whole. That is why the people of Tripura must ensure that both the LF candidates are elected by record margins. ON TWO MODELS There can be no comparison between the Gujarat model and the Tripura model. The Tripura model is not about everything the Left can do, but a reflection of the alternative policies that we are pursuing and want to be followed at the all-India level. Only these policies, if pursued at the all-India level, can provide the much necessary relief to the people. So said the CPI(M)’s Tripura state secretary Bijan Dhar in a Meet the Press organised by Agartala Press Club on March 27. Addressing the mediapersons, Dhar said our main appeal to the electorate for the Lok Sabha elections is: Reject the Congress, Defeat the BJP, Vote for the CPI(M), Strengthen the Left for a Secular and Democratic Alternative. But what is saddening is that in the media there is little or no discussion on the plight of the peasants and workers, on price rise, unemployment and other problems of the common masses. Rather the election is being projected as a duel between two persons. This is something ominous for democracy itself. This is the outcome of a planned effort of the politics of depoliticisation by the corporate houses. We are opposed to this, as we are opposed to bipolarisation of the political system. Dhar also dwelt upon the growing burden on the masses, job loss growth, India’s pro-US foreign policy, etc. To the question whether Tripura is the model the CPI(M) is projecting and how it differs from the Gujarat Model, Dhar said the Gujarat model could not be compared to the Tripura model as the policy outlooks are different. Tripura model is a reflection of the alternative pro-people policies which the Left led governments in West Bengal and Kerala have followed and which we want to see being implemented at the all-India level. However, Tripura is not all what the Left wants to do at the national level. Whatever can be implemented within the constitutional limits by a small state government with its meagre resources is being done here. To a question on the repeal of AFSPA, he said we have clearly clarified that we want the draconian provisions of the law to be removed and a law which has a human face and at the same time allows the security forces to function properly. When a scribe sought his reaction on Buddhadeb Bhattacharya’s reported statement about the probability of supporting the Congress to resist the BJP, Dhar said what he had learnt from the news reports was that Bhattacharya had said nothing of the sort. However, such a situation would not arise at all since the Congress won’t be in a position to seek support to form a government.