Battle lines have been drawn for elections to the 60-member assembly in Tripura, with the opposition CPI(M) and the Congress, after much deliberations, joining hands to take on arch rival BJP, which has already announced that it intends to retain its alliance with regional tribal outfit IPFT.
The Tipra Motha, a newly floated tribal party that swept the autonomous district council polls within months of its formation, is still scouting for a partner to fight the elections, as its demand for a separate state 'Tiprasa' has found no support from any of the major parties in the state.
The TMC, which rejigged its entire organisation in the state last month, has said that it was ready to go it alone.
The saffron camp, which was able to dislodge the ensconced Left regime, is harping on its "double-engine" development benefit, riding on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's appeal, to woo voters, while the Left, now a pale shadow of its formidable self, along with the CPI(M), is seeking a comeback in the state, resting on two broad planks -- corruption and lawlessness.
CPI(M) state secretary Jitendra Choudhury said his party and the Congress are carefully formulating a seat-sharing strategy, "keeping in mind people's aspirations and the need to defeat the BJP".
"Law and order has completely collapsed in the state and people's voices are being choked. They want the BJP's rule to end in the state. Giving due respect to their wish, we have decided to fight the election jointly. Defeating the BJP is our prime agenda," he said.
Congress leader Mukul Wasnik, appointed by the AICC as senior observer in poll-bound Tripura, claimed that the BJP may try taking resort unfair means once they fail to get adequate votes.
"We have to ensure that doesn't happen. The BJP is a threat to democracy," he added.
The saffron party, taking a dig at the CPI(M)-Congress alliance, said that it came as no surprise, as the two parties had always maintained relations covertly, while projecting themselves as opponents.
"So far, they have maintained friendly relations covertly. In fact, the CPI(M) could rule Tripura for 25 years because of its understanding with the Congress," BJP state president Rajib Bhattacharjee alleged.
Chief Minister Manik Saha, who had been addressing public gatherings over the past few weeks, makes sure that he gives a list of achievements of the BJP government over the past five years at every such rally.
The party, which underwent a brand makeover from replacing the chief minister less than a year before the elections, had launched the statewide 'Jana Vishwas Yatra' recently to garner support, with Union Minister Amit Shah flagging it off.
"Our poll campaign will be intensified soon. The eight-day long 'Jana Vishwas Yatra', launched by Amit Bhai ji on January 5, has received a huge response. We will be able to secure at least 50 seats in the next polls," Subrata Chakraborty, the chief spokesperson of ruling BJP, stated.
Sources in the Tipra Motha said that party chief Pradyot Bikram Manikya Debbarma is looking to consolidate tribal votes, not just in the area administered by Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council (TTADC), comprising two-thirds of the state's territory, but across all districts.
The outfit had earlier declared that it will contest 40 seats in the upcoming polls.
It has also extended an alliance invitation to the IPFT.
In a letter to working president of IPFT and minister for tribal welfare Prem Kumar Reang, Debbarma insisted that the "indigenous people of Tripura should unite under a single umbrella to avoid getting extinct".
Members in the Congress and the CPI(M) said on the condition of anonymity that their leadership believe Tipra Motha's influence will largely remain limited to 20 ST (scheduled tribe) constituencies, and the 40-seat claim was "mere posturing".
Political analyst Sekhar Datta contended that no major party would concede to the demand for a separate 'Tipraland', but the Debbarma-led outfit could emerge as the trump card in case of a hung assembly.
"It is very difficult for any party or alliance to accommodate Tipra Motha as it would impact the majority Bengali vote base. The Tipra Motha, too, cannot deviate from its separate state plank, because the party's entire support base was formed on the basis of this demand," he observed.
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