Tripura Elections: Opposition To BJP Brought Congress And CPM Together, But Fears Remain Of Alliance Back-Firing

Many voters and Congress supporters have termed the Congress-CPM alliance in Tripura as ‘unholy’. There is a long history of violence between the Congress and CPM as the Congress was the principal Opposition during the 25-year rule of CPM in Tripura.

Election officers demonstrate the Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) and Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) during a training programme ahead of the assembly poll, at S.K.M hall in Patna.

Traditional rivals Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPM) and the Congress have come together in Tripura to give a fight to the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the upcoming Tripura assembly elections. However, whether this alliance will work in favour of the CPM or not is still a question.

Tripura will go to polls on Thursday and counting of votes will take place on March 2 along with Meghalaya and Nagaland that go to polls later this month. 

Out of the 60 assembly seats in Tripura, the CPM is going to contest in 43, while the Congress is going to fight on 13. Other Left parties —Communist Party of India (CPI), Forward Bloc, Revolutionary Socialist Party— and an Independent candidate will contest on one seat each. While this seat-sharing arrangement might work for Congress, many feel that it might go against the CPM.

Notably, there is an old history of political violence between the two arch-rivals. The 25-year-rule of CPM during 1993-2008, where the Congress was the main Opposition, is marked by political violence between the workers of the two parties. There were allegations of CPM workers unleashing violence upon the Congress workers at the time. 

Prior to 1993, the CPM used to accuse the Congress-Tripura Upajati Juba Samiti coalition government of violence. The irony is that the alleged political violence during the BJP-led government in Tripura has brought the two parties together for the upcoming elections. 

“We have come together to fulfil people’s wishes and to save them from BJP’s anti-people politics, terror, and violence,” said veteran communist leader Tapan Chakraborty and a former minister in the Left government. 

The CPM has alleged that 24 of its leaders have been killed and 500 have been injured during the five-year BJP rule in the state since 2018. According to the statistics of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Tripura reported the highest cases of political violence among the north-eastern states with 136 people injured in 64 cases of political violence in 2021, 78 injured in 2020 in 22 cases, and 62 injured in 2019 in 20 cases of political violence. A total of 370 cases of political violence were recorded during the 2018 polls. 

Speaking to Outlook, senior journalist and political observer Pinaki Das said that the BJP inherited this culture from CPM.

Das said, “Political violence is what brought the Congress and the CPM together. Though it is also true that the BJP inherited the culture from the CPM. This seat-sharing is a puzzling one for the workers and supporters of both the parties as they have been against each other for decades even though the UPA government was supported by the CPM. It is the history of violence that raised BJP to power.”

Many voters and Congress supporters, especially those from families of victims of political violence, have termed the alliance as “unholy”. 

“My father was attacked by CPM goons during Tripura assembly election 1988. He got 37 stiches all over his body just because he was a Congress worker. But now both of the parties are alliance partners in the state,” said a voter from Dharmanagar constituency in North Tripura district, requesting to be anonymous. 

Congress leader and six-time MLA Sudip Roy Barman said it is the extraordinary situation that demanded that both the parties come together. 

He said, “Democracy has been threatened and the Constitution has become invalid during the BJP rule. In such an extraordinary situation, we have to take an extraordinary decision to fight the BJP.”

At the same time, Congress insiders say the less number of seats allotted to the party has been a major disappointment. Barman has also agreed that the party’s interest has been sacrificed by giving few seats to contest. However, he said it is for the bigger interest of the people.

Barman said, “We have sacrificed the party’s interests in the seat sharing, but we are proud that we could ensure that the interest of the people is given more importance.”

The incumbent BJP has taken digs at the Congress-CPM alliance. In its digs, it has referred to the alleged absence of rule of law in the state during the CPM-rule. Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently hit out at the alliance stating that the old players of “misgovernance” have joined their hands the elections. 

At a rally in Tripura’s capital Agartala, Modi said, “The first condition is the rule of law and order which was pushed out of the state during the Left rule. The Left and Congress pushed the state into destruction and treated its people as slaves.”