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Six Trinamool MLAs set to join BJP today in Left-ruled Tripura

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-08-2017 Gyan Varma

New Delhi: Less than seven months from assembly elections in Left-dominated Tripura, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to become the main opposition party in the state with six members of legislative assembly (MLAs) of Trinamool Congress (TMC) expected to formally join the BJP on Monday.

The development is politically significant because the BJP has never won an assembly seat in Tripura, whose politics is dominated by Manik Sarkar-led Communist Party of India (Marxist) or CPM.

The BJP has seen a recent surge in support in the North East—after winning elections in Assam and forming governments in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur, it wants to establish a strong presence in Tripura as well.

“The six MLAs of Trinamool Congress had met BJP president Amit Shah on Saturday in Delhi and they would formally join the BJP on Monday,” said Sunil Deodhar, in-charge of the BJP in Tripura. He added that the BJP has set itself a target of winning 51 seats in the 60-member assembly in the 2018 polls—which would effectively reverse the current assembly seat distribution in just seven months.

Currently, the ruling CPM has 50 seats in the assembly and its ally, the Communist Party of India one seat.

While the Congress was the main opposition party in Tripura until last year, six of its rebel MLAs switched sides and joined the TMC last year after the latter’s success in West Bengal. Then last month, the TMC expelled the six MLAs after they cross-voted for the National Democratic Alliance in the presidential polls.

Tripura is important to the BJP’s political ambitions. In the three years of the NDA at the centre, over 40 ministers have visited Tripura. Apart from promises to end corruption, the Union government has said it will build a super-speciality hospital in Tripura.

The BJP’s gain in the North East has come at the expense of the Congress, and Tripura too reflects this trend. The Congress has been out of power in Tripura for nearly 24 years although it dominated state politics along with the CPM for many years.

In an effort to replicate its electoral performance in Assam, BJP leaders have decided to focus its Tripura election campaign on the issue of development, law and order and healthcare. As in Assam, it has promised to implement the 7th pay commission recommendations.

“Why is it that even now 4th pay commission is implemented in Tripura and not 7th pay commission? The BJP has decided that if voted to power, the new government under the BJP would make the announcement of implementing the 7th pay commission in its first cabinet meeting,” said Deodhar. “We have done it in Assam, we are committed to implementing it in Tripura,” he added.

Tripura has 170,000 government employees and over 40,000 pensioners.“It has been over two decades, government servants have not got any increment. The BJP has organized statewide protests demanding implementation of the 7th pay commission and we would take these protest at district level and assembly constituencies,” the BJP leader added.

“Unlike the Left parties, the BJP does not have a committed support base in the state. However, it is set to gain because there is no other option and voters here want a change. But to get voted to power, the BJP will have to look at forging alliance with regional parties here,” said Sukhendu Debbarma, professor of history department at Tripura University.

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