BJP team rushes to Tripura to quell rumblings
- Friction between chief minister Biplab Deb and dissenting MLAs led by Sudip Roy Barman has exacerbated ever since Mukul Roy, former national vice-president of the BJP, snapped ties with the party to return to the TMC.
Trouble is brewing afresh for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Tripura as a section of party leaders, who had jumped ship from the Trinamool Congress (TMC), are learnt to have started negotiations for a possible return, said a party functionary on the condition of anonymity.
The functionary added that friction between chief minister Biplab Deb and dissenting MLAs led by Sudip Roy Barman has exacerbated ever since Mukul Roy, former national vice-president of the BJP, snapped ties with the party to return to the TMC.
“It was Roy who was instrumental in making Roy Burman and six others switch sides from the TMC to the BJP in 2017. Now to prove his allegiance to the TMC, he may try to destabilise the BJP government in Tripura. There is a buzz that he has initiated talks with the dissenters,” said the party functionary.
Barman, who was a Congressman before joining the TMC in 2016, has made his chief ministerial ambitions public. He has been urging the BJP central leadership to change the CM, citing administrative problems.
Anticipating defection to the TMC, the BJP central leadership has taken note of developments. A team of senior leaders, including party general secretary organisation BL Santhosh and Northeast zonal secretary Ajay Jamwal, are in Tripura, where the BJP came to power in 2018 after defeating the Manik Sarkar-led Communist Party of India (Marxist) government. Sarkar was the CM of the state for 20 years.
An official from the state government said the team from Delhi is on a visit for “organisational purposes”. “There is no threat to the government from either the rebels or the TMC,” the official said.
However, this is not the first time that the central leadership has had to intervene. Friction between the chief minister and rebels made headlines in October last year as well, when Burman, who was dropped from the state cabinet, flanked by leaders including Sushant Chaudhary, Atul Dev Burman, Diba Chandra, Parimal Dev Burman and Ashish Saha among others, flew to Delhi to apprise party president JP Nadda and Santhosh of the problems within the state unit.
“These leaders have been complaining that the chief minister leaves them out of decision making, acts in an arbitrary manner and has failed to deliver development works that were promised by the BJP,” the functionary quoted above said.
In December, the rebels again raised the demand for replacing the chief minister. They pointed out that the CM’s working style could have an adverse impact on the party’s performance in the 2023 assembly elections.
In December when Vinod Sonkar reached Tripura on his maiden visit as the party’s state in-charge, he was greeted with slogans against the chief minister. At that time, the CM had blamed the Left cadre for engineering the protest and went on to declare that he would seek people’s mandate on continuing in his position. “He (CM) had declared that he would go to the Vivekananda Maidan and seek people’s support. That statement had not gone down well with the central leadership. However, a decision was taken not to change the leadership mid-term,” the functionary said.
While on earlier occasions, the central leadership was confident of getting a hold of the situation, the involvement of Roy has sounded alarm.
“Since the party unit is already in disarray, it will not be very difficult for the opposition to weaken the party structure. But we are hopeful of a resolution,” said a party leader in Delhi, who did not wish to be named.
The BJP, which had bagged 43% votes in the 2018 state elections, has 36 MLAs while its ally Indigenous Peoples’ Front of Tripura (IPFT) has eight MLAs in the 60-member assembly. Burman’s claims of having the support of 18-20 legislators could put the party in a bind. The CPI(M), which ruled the state for over two decades, has 16 members. The TMC and the Congress drew a blank in the 2018 assembly polls.