Dent in CPI(M) vote bank in Tripura polls will further alienate party in Bengal, fear apparatchiks
When the Uluberia Lok Sabha by-poll results were announced on Thursday, Hannan Mollah, the CPI(M)’s eight-time former MP who lost the seat to Trinamool’s Sultan Ahmed in 2009, was busy campaigning in Tripura for the February 18 assembly polls.Tripura Elections 2018 Updated: Feb 09, 2018 14:39 IST
As results to the by-polls in Noapara assembly and Uluberia Lok Sabha seats established on Thursday that the Bengal CPI(M)’s post-2011 downslide has gathered more momentum, apparatchiks in the state unit could only look North-East for hope.
With BJP scoring 2.93 lakh votes against the CPI(M)’s 1.38 lakh in Uluberia and the Marxists finishing third in Noapara with 19 per cent vote share, few in the party’s state headquarters at Alimuuddin Street could question the saffron brigade’s influence on the Bengali Hindu vote bank that was once controlled by Marxists.
Since Trinamool scored a whopping 7.67 lakh votes in Uluberia, it was also apparent that a sizeable section of the huge minority population in Howrah district had abandoned the Left.
Interestingly, when the results were being announced, Hannan Mollah, the CPI(M)’s eight-time MP from Uluberia who lost to Trinamool’s Sultan Ahmed in 2009, was busy campaigning in Tripura for the crucial February 18 assembly polls. With chief minister Manik Sarkar trying hard to establish the eighth Left Front government in a row, Tripura is where the Bengal CPI(M) is searching for hope, party leaders admitted in private.
While Mollah was stationed in Tripura, CPI(M) Bengal state secretary Suryakanta Mishra was on his way back after a hectic campaign. Bengal Left Front chairman Biman Bose returned to Kolkata on Wednesday. All three, incidentally, are members of the politburo, the CPI(M)’s highest executive body. The fourth Politburo member from Bengal and also a Lok Sabha MP, Md Salim, would be paying a visit soon, confirmed the party’s Tripura state secretary Bijan Dhar.
“Our organisation in Tripura is still the strongest among all states and BJP is desperate to make inroads. If they manage to win seats or increase vote share it will have a direct effect on Bengali Hindu as well as Muslim voters in Bengal during panchayat polls later this year and the crucial Lok Sabha elections in 2019,” a senior Bengal state committee leader said on condition of anonymity.
“I can’t comment on what our Bengal leaders are thinking but it is established that BJP is our main enemy not only in Tripura but in all states. Congress and Trinamool don’t matter in Tripura. To win the coming polls, the BJP is using money power not only to win over tribal leaders but influence Bengalis as well,” alleged Dhar while talking over phone.
Under these circumstances, it is no wonder that the CPI(M)’s official mouthpiece in Bengal has reported that not only Mishra and Bose but even CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who campaigned in Tripura on January 30 and 31, said at public meetings that entire India was watching Tripura and only its people could stop the BJP juggernaut.
The BJP however continues to make inroads. On Thursday, the Tipraha faction of the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) joined the BJP, said CPI(M) leaders. The BJP had earlier forged an electoral alliance with IPFT which wants greater autonomy for tribal areas.