Requiem for the Left?
The new rulers
Tripura is the quintessential nightmare for the Communist Party of India-Marxist. Aware of the growing reach of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the state, and the dual impact of power, money and ceaseless hard work since 2014, the Left was still optimistic of retaining the state. Till the very end the CPI(M) was certain of its ability to defeat the BJP, a worrying factor in itself, as it shows now the disconnect between the communists and the people. Once able to correctly read to almost the last votes, the will of the people, the Left failed miserably in doing so in both West Bengal, and now Tripura. Both states having one fact in common: the Left rule for decades that had made the cadres apathetic and almost bourgeois in their approach to government and politics.
Kerala remains different, at least for now, as the Left cadres there are more alert having had to share power in alternate terms with the Congress led Front. Sitting in the opposition has kept the comrades on their toes, at least to the extent of being able to remain in touch with the people and still having cadres connected more with the ground than with power.
In Tripura, the BJP has worked on a plan. It first worked to decimate the Congress with complete success as the party lost not just its legislators but its workers to the BJP. It then swallowed whatever little there was of the Trinamool Congress in the state. And it worked to then build a strong campaign against the Left, and more specifically the popular Chief Minister Manik Sarkar by targeting him on all the grounds that were seen as his strength. The honest, pro-poor image was hammered on continuously, ceaselessly with the CPI(M) being shown up as archaic, anti-Hindu of course, and corrupt. The propaganda, as we have seen in other parts of India worked, with the vote turning against the Left and for the BJP. And as expected, the Congress that watched its party being swallowed by the BJP with not even the interest of the bystander, was thrown into the grave.
Tripura has increased the footprint of the BJP in the North East dramatically. The exit of the Congress from most of the region, and the disappearance of the popular Left government has left BJP with a clean field except for local parties who are most susceptible to money and can be controlled fairly easily as and when required. The BJP knows this better than others, and as in Assam has not let any local party come in the way of pushing its agenda forward. It keeps making concessions as and when required, such as the beef issue, but the overall plan for the region is moving forward. And after the results of these elections even more rapidly so.
Tripura is all important for the BJP as part of its overall opposition to the Left that is the only other cadre based party, and thus able to mount a resistance. The Congress believes in the gods to revive it with work being second to fortune; the regional parties are easily bought or silenced by open files; with the Left now being reduced to an iffy level in just Kerala.
The problem for the Left is that it is being unable to revive. The attack on its cadres in West Bengal by the Trinamool Congress that replaced it has virtually paralysed the party, with the state leaders unable to provide the direction necessary for a come back in the state. In Tripura the leadership seems to be a little more responsive, given the figures and the recent history, but it can be taken for granted that the Left cadres will come under violent attack from the new government (with assistance now) and will find it difficult to withstand the expected assault.
It might be recalled that the Indigenous Peoples Front of India that is in alliance with the BJP had only recently killed a bright young journalist Santanu Bhowmick while he was covering their rally. The brutal attack was not a coincidence, but a targeted assault on the scribe seen as being close to the Left government. This in itself is an indication of what the Left in the opposition in Tripura can expect. More so as the BJP will work alongside to ensure its complete decimation in a state that it has ruled for decades, with the popularity of Manik Sarkar uncontested.
Difficult times indeed for the Left front, with the scheduled Party Congress of the CPI(M) now an opportunity for serious introspection and soul searching. Whether that will happen along radical new lines or get bogged down in memories of the past is anyone’s guess.