Close to achieving its goal of a “Congress-mukt Bharat (Congress-free India)”, the BJP has turned its gaze on the Left bastions of Kerala and Tripura.
While the party and its ideological parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, have turned up the heat on CPI(Marxist)-led Left Democratic Front government in Kerala, BJP chief Amit Shah is now focusing to Tripura, which is due for assembly election in 2018.
The tiny northeastern state is significant for the BJP as the Left has been ruling the state since 1993 and the Congress seems to be losing ground.
The Northeast has emerged as a happy hunting ground for the BJP, which is in power in three states and a junior partner in the ruling coalition.
Shah will on May 7 begin a two-day visit to the state during which he plans to meet party cadres and prepare the ground for the BJP’s expansion.
Here are five reasons why the BJP is keen on Tripura:
1. The “Red Fort” in West Bengal has already fallen to Trinamool Congress and the BJP has been quick to make inroads in the state. In Kerala, the party managed to win its first assembly seat in the last year’s election.
The Congress, which has been in opposition for 24 years in Tripura, is losing ground while the BJP is getting a good response from people.
2. The Tripura assembly has 60 seats, 49 of which are with the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and 10 with the Congress. In the 2013 assembly election, the BJP contested 50 seats, lost deposit in 49 and polled just 1.54 % votes compared to CPM’s 48.11% and Congress’ 36.53%. The next year’s Lok Sabha election offered some hope to the BJP that saw its vote share rise to 5.77% and Congress’ slip to 15.38%.
3. Of the 25 Lok Sabha seats in the Northeast, Assam accounts for 14 while Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, and Arunachal Pradesh have two each. Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim have one.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, the BJP won eight seats and its allies, the Nagaland Peoples Front and the Sikkim Democratic Front, one each.
Despite the so-called Modi wave, the Northeast gave the Congress eight of its 44 Lok Sabha seats. The CPM won two and rest went to regional players.
The BJP is eyeing 20 of the 25 seats in 2019. It has formed a grouping, the North-East Democratic Alliance, with regional players. BJP general secretary Ram Madhav and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, who was instrumental in the BJP forming its first government in the state, are its pointspersons in the region.
4. A setback in Tripura would further marginalise the Left nationally. If the BJP manages to get the better of the CPM in the Tripura election, it will deal a blow to the communist party’s effort to cobble up an alliance of non-BJP parties to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 national election.
5. Chief minister Manik Sarkar has a clean image but his government is facing corruption charges, including over recruitment of teachers. The BJP has been asking Sarkar to step down, holding him responsible for the Supreme Court sacking 10,223 teachers. The party is organising protest demonstrations and drawing a good response.