The northeastern state of Tripura witnessed violent clashes between activists of the ruling BJP and the principal opposition, CPM on Wednesday.
These clashes were preceded by an earlier round of violence on Monday between workers of the two parties, when former Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar was allegedly prevented from proceeding to Dhanpur.
These clashes, experts believe will provide the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress to find in-roads into the state politics ahead of the polls in 2023.
TMC eyes Tripura
The Trinamool party, encouraged by its landslide victory in the Bengal Assembly elections this year where it successfully dismantled BJP's incursion, has now set eyes on the two BJP-ruled states in the Northeast - Assam and Tripura.
Hoping to achieve electoral success in Tripura, she sent a team of I-PAC members to take stock of the ground situation and gauge the potential support base for the TMC in late August.
They were detained in their hotel room by the Agartala police for allegedly flouting COVID-19 norms. Soon after the news, senior TMC leader and MP Derek O’Brien reached Tripura to help the I-PAC team. The party had also rushed Bratya Basu, Moloy Ghatak and Ritabrata Banerjee to Tripura to aid the I-PAC members. The prominence accorded to the I-PAC team by the TMC has clearly shown that the TMC is standing rock solid behind their extended political arm and will try to cash on even smaller issues to gain political ground in Tripura.
TMC national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee has been put in charge of the mission that aims to overthrow the BJP government in the next Assembly polls in 2023. He has also created a travel roster for six TMC leaders - Bratya Basu, Moloy Ghatak, Lok Sabha member Kakali Ghosh Dastidar, state general secretary Kunal Ghosh, TMC's trade union front president Ritabrata Banerjee and former legislator Samir Chakraborty - who will gather support for the party on the ground and made the party's presence felt in the state.
Dissidence in BJP
With 36 MLAs in the Tripura Assembly of 60 members, BJP enjoys a majority in the state.
However, Chief Minister Biplab Deb faces much backlash in the state.
Sudip Kumar Burman, a former Congress leader who is believed to have played a big role in the BJP's rise in the state, has refused to work under Deb and eventually was dropped from the Cabinet.
Dissatisfied cadres of the BJP are shifting to the Trinamool Congress. Speaking on the issue, Ashish Kumar Saha, a MLA, had was quoted as saying, "There is large-scale public dissatisfaction among the people against Biplab. BJP workers at the district and mandal levels are leaving us to join Trinamool. We are not able to give them proper respect due to our arrogance."
The ruling government is also facing the public's ire owing to its handling of the coronavirus pandemic. A total of 803 people have died of COVID-19 in the state so far, according to Union health ministry data.
An opportunity in the making
Persistent attacks on the visiting TMC leaders by the alleged BJP activists in Tripura are proving to be counterproductive for the state's ruling party.
It is ironic that the BJP has trained its guns on the TMC, which it earlier had termed as an insignificant force and a non-threat in Tripura.
The convoy of Mamata Banerjee's nephew Abhishek Banerjee was attacked by suspected BJP workers at Parimal Chowmani in the Gomati district on 2 August.
Then, on 15 August, two TMC parliamentarians Aparupa Poddar and Dola Sen’s cars were attacked allegedly by BJP workers near South Tripura district’s Belonia town.
The two female MPs claimed that they were physically assaulted and their clothes were partially torn. Sen's assistant Jakir Hossein received a head injury in the incident.
The BJP, however, denied its involvement in the incidents. BJP leader Nabadal Banik dismissed the allegations of attacks as a "drama" enacted by the TMC to grab media attention to provoke trouble in the state.
The series of attacks have helped the TMC to create a buzz in the state as the party has been now seen as a principal opponent to the BJP, admitted some BJP leaders in private.
As one BJP leader rued, "The TMC is gradually becoming a pivot of all anti-Biplab (chief minister Biplab Deb) forces in the state."
Agartala-based political commentator Sitangshu Ranjan Dey was quoted as saying: "The state's BJP government handed over a much-needed issue on a platter to the TMC to build up a political momentum here."
The party also got a shot in the arm when senior Congress leader Sushmita Dev joined the TMC.
Notably, Dev's father late Santosh Mohan Dev was a two-time MP from Tripura and was instrumental in helping the Congress to win the 1988 Assembly elections. Sushmita Dev had visited Tripura several times in the past and is a known face in the state.
While the TMC is planning to take the BJP head-on, the CPM has failed to put up a solid challenge to the BJP in Tripura. The main reason behind it could be the drying fund flow for the Left party.
With all of this, the TMC hopes that it does better in the state than it did in the 2018 polls, where contesting 24 of the state's 60-Assembly constituencies, it won a vote share of a measly 0.3 percent.
Meanwhile, the BJP pulled in 43.59 percent votes to win 36 seats and the CPM got 42.22 percent votes to win 16 seats.
Inputs from agencies