June 19, 2022

Tripura Assembly By-Election: An Acid Test before the Battle for Democracy

Haripada Das

BY-ELECTION to four assembly seats in Tripura is scheduled to be held on June 23. Out of the four vacant seats, three belonged to the ruling BJP and one to the CPI(M). Of the three BJP seats, two MLAs representing Agartala and Town Bordwali constituencies resigned from the assembly and then joined the Congress. The BJP MLA from Surma (SC) constituency revolted against the government and the party and joined the TMC and thereby attracting anti-defection law and losing his membership in the assembly. Now he is reported to have left the TMC, alleging a nexus between BJP and TMC. The Jubarajnagar seat became vacant following the demise of CPI(M) MLA and former speaker, Ramendra Nath. Thus, the by-elections in at least three seats have been burdened on the people due to internal problems of the ruling BJP.


There would have been another vacancy in the assembly, but still, the case is pending because of the dubious stance of the speaker. One MLA of IPFT, an alliance partner of the BJP, representing Simna (ST) constituency resigned from the party and formally joined TipraMotha. He resigned from the assembly, first by sending his resignation by messenger, and subsequently being summoned by the speaker, who tendered his resignation physically to the speaker. But the speaker kept this case pending for more than a year without assigning any ground. 


Now that the withdrawal of the nomination phase is over, contest positions in all the seats have become clear. While Left Front, BJP and TMC are contesting in all the four seats, the Congress is contesting in three and they are lending support to TipraMotha in one seat. The notable contestants are Sudip Roy Barman from Agartala and the new chief minister, ManikSaha, from Town Bordwali. The Left Front has allotted three seats to CPI(M) and one to AIFB. 


The BJP-IPFT alliance government started its journey through dreadful state-wide terror which in the course of time turned fascistic in character. They reduced every election to complete mockery. Their hateful drive for committing planned murder, extraction of ransom, physical assaults, looting and destruction of properties targeting the opposition leaders, cadres and supporters and strangulation of the opposition voices continued all along for the last four years. The attack on media persons, crimes against women, etc., is on the rise. In a word, the rule of law is replaced by the rule of the jungle. 


There is an acute dearth of food and work. The people are struggling to arrange two square meals. There are reports of starvation and semi-starvation in many houses. Pathetic incidents of starvation death and selling out of babies are taking place. The allotment of man-days in MGNREGA and TUEP schemes has been drastically curtailed. Random corruption is going on in these schemes exploiting the workers of their due. Also, there is hardly any work provided by the line departments of the government. In many villages, rural road communication has collapsed. The electricity supply system has broken down too. Irrigation plants in many places are not operating for the disruption of electricity. The PMAY scheme for providing houses for the poor has been turned into a source of loot by the corrupt BJP leaders. Thousands of social pension holders have been pushed to the brink of death by delisting them without assigning any ground. In paddy procurement, middlemen are exploiting the benefit of depriving real farmers. Health service has collapsed. The hospitals are running with an acute shortage of doctors, nurses, paramedics, etc. Neither there are dispensable medicines nor testing equipment in the right condition. Autocracy prevails in the education system where there is a serious shortage of teachers. In many schools, there is a shortage of classrooms. The distribution of cooked food both in the ICDS project and in the schools is on the verge of a breakdown. The government has created division among the students belonging to poor and the solvents families in the name of the ‘Vidyajyoti project’. A universal free education system would be no more in the state. With the spiralling hike in the cost of fuel, the prices of essential commodities are also on the rise in parallel. Adding salt to the wound, the state government is imposing unusually high taxes which resulted in adverse effects on the trade and transport sectors. The government recruitment is almost nil. Vacant posts are being abolished. Retrenched 10,323 teachers are facing great difficulty to survive. Not a single electoral promise given by the BJP during the assembly election in 2018 to allure the unemployed youths, teachers and employees has been materialised. Torture on minorities including psychological pressure on them is escalating day by day. The government is trying to break the traditional fraternal bond between tribals and non-tribals. Corruption prevails in every unit of the government. The government and corruption have become synonymous. In a word, the government is considered to be nothing but a deceiver today.

The CPI(M) has been taking these issues to the people. The CPI(M) campaign team led by the opposition leader Manik Sarkar along with former MLAs and MDCs of the concerned district are meeting the people of various blocks and respective urban body areas. The team members so far met the people of six districts and heard problems prevailing in the area directly from them. On the basis of their deliberations, the MLA team prepared a memorandum and submitted it to the district magistrate concerned urging him to sort out the urgent issues that were very much concerned with the livelihood of the people and their survival.


Just eight months ahead of the assembly elections, sensing people’s pulse, the BJP thought it better to mend their deception, non-performance and mal-performance by replacing the discredited chief minister with a new face to divert people’s attention from their abject failure. But, since the BJP is at the helm of power, this shrewd attempt to pacify the people’s anger against BJP would not work Speculative reports like immorality, illicitness, collection of huge amounts of bribes misusing his office, having disproportionate property, nepotism and rude behaviour, etc., are being published in both print and social media against former chief minister, Biplab Deb. But surprisingly, the BJP did not refute any such allegations against him.


After a setback in the TTAADC election last year, BJP was contemplating averting this by-election apprehending consecutive electoral debacle which may have an adverse effect on the assembly general election scheduled for early next year. But, under compulsion of getting the new chief minister elected, they gave the nod to the by-election. Naturally, fear of facing defeat made the ruling BJP panic. Thus, they became desperate to adopt electoral malpractice and rampant violation of the Model Code of Conduct from the very first day of the announcement of the election. After the declaration of the election, the chief minister himself made an election campaign using a government helicopter. Bike-riding BJP miscreants escalated their terror attacks both inside the election-bound areas and outside targeting the CPI(M). The miscreants set fire to a CPI(M) local committee office close to Town Bordwali where the by-election is going to be held. By this time CPI(M) submitted several complaints of attacks and violations of MCC to the CEO. There are also complaints about the partisan role of a section of the police. These complaints were given prominence by the local print and social media. 


The Left Front in a pamphlet appealed to the people to make the Left Front candidates return. The Left Front considers that this is a battle for the restoration of democracy, peace, communal and ethnic fraternity and most importantly, the establishment of rule of law. Though the outcome of this by-election is immaterial to regime change, the victory of the Left Front in this bye-election would embolden the distressed people of the state to carry forward the present struggle for basic needs which were denied by the BJP-IPFT alliance government for more than four years. The Left Front also appealed to the electors not to compromise on their right to cast votes by themselves.