March 12, 2023

BJP Drive for Opposition-Mukt Tripura

THE orgy of violence unleashed in Tripura after the assembly election results were announced on March 2 was an act foretold once the BJP got a majority, albeit a narrow one.  As of March 6, around a thousand incidents of attacks and violence by the BJP gangs took place all over the state. These were in the form of physical attacks on CPI(M), Left Front and Congress workers and supporters, ransacking or burning of their houses and demolition of party offices. A particularly vicious form of attack is meant to destroy their means of livelihood like burning down rubber plantations, crops and damaging their e-rickshaws and vehicles to stop them plying.

This is exactly the pattern of violence and terror which began after the last assembly election results in March 2018, when the BJP first came to power. The repression by the ruling party continued throughout the five years with extortions and threats to the families of workers. 25 members and supporters of the CPI(M) were killed in this period. This time, the widespread intensity of attacks seems to stem from the anger and frustration at the BJP seat and vote tally coming down substantially, while despite all the efforts to suppress the opposition, the Left-Congress tie-up got over 35 per cent of the votes. 

People outside Tripura may ask why such widespread and intensified attacks on the opposition after the ruling party registered an electoral victory.  This is where the class aspect comes in.  The Communist movement in Tripura, like in West Bengal, was built over decades of class struggles and mass movements.  What is being witnessed in Tripura is a continuing plan of repression and violence aimed at dismantling the CPI(M)’s  organisation and intimidating its mass support.  Before elections or after, this class attack on the Communist and Left movement continues. The aim is to extirpate the Communist movement itself.

That the BJP as the ruling party is behind this violence is evident from how Manik Saha, who has taken the oath as chief minister for the second term on March 8, has reacted to these incidents.  After visiting some of the affected areas, Saha said that, “Opposition party supporters and people with vested interests are inciting violence in different parts of the state”.  So, the CPI(M) and other opposition workers are setting fire to their own houses, shops and offices to defame the BJP! 

Another tactic is to blame the CPI(M) and the Left Front of suppressing the opposition during its tenure in government before 2018. Prime Minister Modi himself resorted to this falsehood.  In the rallies he addressed during the election campaign in Tripura and which was echoed by him at the victory celebrations at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on the evening of March 2, Modi kept on repeating how in earlier days, only one party’s flag would be allowed to fly in Agartala and other places.  Anyone who sought to fly any other party flag would be met with violent retribution. This harping on the autocracy of the CPI(M) as the ruling party totally flies in the face of reality.

For instance, in the 2018 assembly elections, when the Left Front government was in office, the number of BJP flags, banners and hoardings which were strung up all over the state was a surprise to many observers, as the party had never been so strong in the state.  Even earlier, when the Congress was the main opposition in the state, Congress flags would be prominently displayed around Agartala.  Unlike the November 2021 Agartala municipal elections held under BJP rule, which were blatantly rigged with the BJP winning all 51 out of the 51 seats, under Left Front rule, Congress, the main opposition, got a majority in the municipal council in the elections held in December, 1995. Subsequently too, the Congress continued to win a sizeable number of seats in the corporation, apart from polling over 40 per cent in successive assembly elections.

The fact is that BJP rule in the past five years has meant a flagrant denial of the rights of the opposition and a brutal suppression of democracy and democratic rights. One can gauge the nature of the authoritarian-fascistic set-up in Tripura from the fact that none of the 16 CPI(M) MLAs could  move about freely in their constituencies to do the normal activities of an elected representative in these five years.  This included Manik Sarkar, the leader of the opposition also, who, when he insisted on participating in a block level mass deputation in his constituency in September 2021, saw a massive retaliation by BJP goons who attacked CPI(M) offices and houses of its members all over the state, including a brazen attack on the state Party headquarters.

The BJP-RSS combine know very well that an important factor for their depleted electoral success, lies in the fact that for five years continuously, they were able to paralyse and weaken the Party and Left Front organisation through a regime of repression and intimidation. The Left is still a spectre which haunts them as they saw how, after a long period of suppression, Left Front workers sprang to life and worked courageously during the election campaign. The continuation of the violence against the Left and the opposition is an expression of their fears and insecurities. 

The CPI(M) and the Left Front face the arduous task of fending off the violence directed against them and continuing to maintain their links with the people.  In this endeavor, they will have the support of all democratic, progressive and secular forces of the country. 

(March 8, 2023)