The curtains came down to one of the most high-pitched campaigns in Tripura with both the ruling CPI(M) and the BJP leaving no stone unturned to corner each other in the election battle. Probably, it is for the first time in an election campaign in the history of India that a sitting Prime Minister of India has addressed so many rallies. Prime Minister rendra Modi addressed as many as seven rallies in the landlocked state to challenge Chief Minister Manik Sarkar who has been running the government in the state for the last twenty years. As it ensued, after the NDA coming to power at the Centre, any election, be it of civic bodies or of states assemblies, turns into a grand affair which somehow gets connected to the mainstream politics of the country. The election in Tripura is no exception. It has been billed as a fight between ‘left and right’ in the country. On the one hand it is a battle of survival for the Left since Tripura is one of the last bastions of the party ruled by it since 1978, except for five years (1988-1993) when the Congress was in power, on the other for Prime Minister rendra Modi win in the poll here is sure to reaffirm his charisma among electorate of any political hues. Secondly, it nearly finishes off the Leftist presence in electoral politics in India. But, if the BJP is uble to break new ground (ruling Left Front’s foothold in Tripura) after March 3, 2018 things may turn a bit tricky for the Prime Minister ahead of the Assembly elections of in other important North Indian states – Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – by the end of the year. It has been observed in the past that BJP’s ploy to put the Prime Minister in front in election campaign where formidable opponent was present did not really work wonders. Take for instance, Bihar and West Bengal elections. Both, Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee countered Prime Minister Modi’s onslaught in the electoral battle. In Tripura also, Mr Modi is facing a tough political opponent who matches him from every angle. Persol integrity of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar is a talking point everywhere in the country. And this very fact has so far played a pivotal role in continuation of the Left Front Government in Tripura for nearly two decades. The appeal of Mr Sarkar also embodies a sense of migrant Bengali pride in a region plagued by issues of insiders versus outsiders. Mr Sarkar still remains a magnet for every pragmatic migrant Bengali who realizes the benefits of having one from his own clan as the chief minister not being hostile to him/her. Moreover, with its strong organizatiol machineries the Left should do better than what is perceived in the run-up to the polls. However, even if it mages to sail through, the Left should realize that it is fast losing rrative; the large crowds which BJP pulled in its rallies are a proof that the voters in Tripura can no longer be taken for granted by the Left as theirs only. Coming back to the BJP and its star campaigner Mr Modi, Mr Modi tried to turn every election into a presidential contest, and Tripura poll is no different. It is a Sarkar-versus-Modi battle. By doing so, Mr Modi is running the risk of re-energizing the Left party at the tiol level if somehow Mr Sarkar keeps his fort intact. Already, there are murmurs doing rounds that the result in Tripura will have domino effect in other parts of the country. Just a few months ago, a perception gathered momentum that the BJP is invincible but two bye-elections in Rajasthan, where the Congress registered a resounding victory, appeared to have shifted the political momentum. The Congress suddenly seems to have found a spring in its stride by targeting the government over Rafale deal and the latest was the fraud of more than Rs 11,000 crore at Punjab tiol Bank committed by diamond merchant Nirav Modi, who is now absconding from the country. A year before the general elections and in his fourth year of governce, Prime Minister Modi might have to give answers to some tough questions to his electorate on issues which are raised by his opponents on charges of nepotism, jobless growth and price hike of essential commodities. And the poll result of Tripura on March 3, whichever way it goes – Left or Right – could well turn to be a pointer towards the present mindset of Indian voters and things to come in the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Right versus Left in Tripura