The Left needs new leadership to revive itself in Tripura
If the CPI(M) has to revive its lost fortunes in the state, it has to bring tribal leaders to the front
The Left politics in the country is presently in a never-ending crisis. The leadership of the Left tries to talk more about development, providing jobs to the youth and improving the social conditions of the poor. However, during the elections, the Left fails to get votes. The latest Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) poll results, where the CPI(M) led Left Front failed to even open its account, once again validate the fact that the Left is in serious trouble.
In Tripura, the Left movement primarily started gaining a foothold first in the tribal areas — which later acted as a solid ground for the Left’s long electoral success. One of the main reasons for the fall of the Red Wall in Tripura in 2018 was the erosion of tribals’ votes. Tribals constitute 31% of the state’s population.
The Left leadership of the state took the 2018 debacle as an aberration. True, defeats happen in democracy but this doesn’t explain the continuous erosion of the votes. The Left leadership has tried to recover its lost votes by organizing protests against the ruling BJP governments of both the state and the Centre since many voters seemed to have gone saffron.
Geographically, Tripura is divided into hills and plains. Hills are dominated by tribals while Bengalis dominate the plains. The Bengalis account for 67% of the population. This geographical divide is evident in politics too — although, the divide was lessened during the CPI(M) led Left Front’s rule.
Having said this, the truth that can’t be ignored is that CPI(M) took solid tribal support as a guarantee. This complacency prevented the Left to understand the ground reality of the tribal areas in the later phase.
Since the first elections of ADC in 1982, CPI(M) led Left Front never got below 10 seats out of 28. This record was broken this year. In the past, the Left lost the ADC polls only in 1990 and 2000.
Not only this, in the three previous elections, the Left won all the 28 seats. But in this year’s ADC polls, the Left drew a blank by garnering only 14% votes.
Even though there is growing resentment against the present Biplab Deb-led BJP government, the CPI(M) failed to get a single some seat — an indication of strong anti-incumbency against the Left ruled ADC.
Clearly, the disenchantment of the tribals against the Left didn’t end in 2018 — as expected by the leadership. Nevertheless, the CPI(M) led Left Front has been quite satisfied with the fact that the BJP and its tribal ally — Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) — have failed to
conquer the ADC, which has went to royal scion Pradyot Kishore Dev Barman’s new regional party, TIPRA Motha.
Despite being a new party, TIPRA Motha won an absolute majority by winning 16 seats while its ally, Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT), managed to grab 2 seats.
No doubt, this was a setback for the ruling BJP — as in the past, barring the 2000 election, voters of ADC had always voted for the ruling party and alliance. Having said that, the fact that can’t be ignored is that the BJP didn’t perform badly. In fact, it did well, although not the way the party had expected. The saffron party for the first time won 9 seats while a rebel BJP candidate won as an independent. It was its not-so-happy ally IPFT which failed to even garner a seat — a fact which brought cheers to many BJP state leaders.
It is quite surprising that the state Left leaders are much more concerned about BJP than their own declining status. The fact is the tribals are not ready to vote for the Left again — unless it changes the leadership. The present leadership of the Left is mainly dominated by the Bengalis — a major reason for disenchantment among the tribals, who are now eager to see a tribal chief minister.
For these aspirations, tribals can’t be blamed. After all, it’s a fact the state, which was once a tribal majority, had only one tribal chief minister — Dasarath Deb (Barman), the popular mass leader and pioneer of the Left movement in the state. He was at the helm of the state from 1993-98.
Although the tribals continued to vote for the Left Front, despite a Bengali Manik Sarkar at the helm of the state, the failure of CPI(M) to promote tribal faces in higher positions of the party and the government during its 20 years of Manik Sarkar led rule didn’t go well with the tribals.
The removal of the party’s tribal face Jitendra Chaudhury, who was the second front-runner in the party after Sarkar for the chief minister post, from the state cabinet to shift him to Delhi through Lok Sabha in 2014 was another main reason that angered the tribals. The result was that tribals first shifted towards IPFT(NC)’s absurd Tipraland demand and now they have moved towards Pradyot’s TIPRA Motha.
If the state CPI(M) leadership of the state is in the belief that anti-incumbency would automatically bring the Left back to power, then it is truly living in a state of illusion.
However, everything isn’t lost for the Left in Tripura. The old Left leadership failed to develop fully the ADC areas is a bitter truth that the CPI(M) has to accept. The state leadership of Tripura has to change the party’s old front faces. CPI(M) needs new leadership, which has a better understanding of the present ground situation. And, importantly, if the party has to revive its lost fortunes in the state, CPI(M) has to bring tribal leaders to the front.
The Left has to realize that it is not in a position to ignore the tribal aspirations — and if it does, Tripura will also become a desert for the Left.
Views are personal