Tripura, the Left Front's last fortress in India, is apparently well guarded. But the assembly elections on February 14 have become crucial for the communists after the fall of West Bengal and Kerala in 2011.
One of India's smallest and remotest states, Tripura has been a red bastion since 1978 except for a term (1988-1993) when the Congress was in power. The political ripples in this north-eastern state jutting into Bangladesh had hardly perturbed the rest of the nation.
But things are different this time. The focus on Tripura has sharpened because of the return of the Congress-led United Democratic Front in Kerala and the Left Front's ouster by the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal two years ago.
The Congress ironically has borrowed the Trinamool slogan of 'poriborton' (change) to deny the CPM-led front a fifth straight term. The former, however, hardly has any issues with which to batter the Left Front government that has been a top-five performer vis-a-vis schemes for the poor.
Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had while campaigning for the Congress in 2008 publicly acknowledged Tripura as among the best-governed states in India.
"Much of the development is on paper. And Tripura is too far away from New Delhi to ponder over the excesses the CPM cadres commit," said senior Congress leader Ratan Lal Nath, seeking re-election from the Mohanpur assembly seat.
But even the staunchest of critics agree that the last 10 years have been the most peaceful for Tripura.
The state was witness to violent tribal militancy in the 1980s and 1990s, the most gruesome being the massacre of 255 Bengali Hindus in June 1980.Nineteen tribes comprising 30% of Tripura's population resent the political dominance by Bengalis, most of them settlers after Partition in 1947.
The Left Front is confident of beating anti-incumbency and retaining its last bastion. The confidence is attributed to chief minister Manik Sarkar's 'star' value and clean image.