[<<In a rare confession by a Left leader, Politburo member Mohammad Salim
said on Saturday, “The BJP had many devices, especially the social media,
to woo the youth. But it is true that in a state like Tripura there are
issues. Unemployment, for instance, is a grave issue. We as a party will
have to introspect. There are things that we need to do, we have to
reinvent and repackage ourselves.”>>]


How Tripura was won
Tripura election results 2018: In BJP’s ideological battle against the
Left, in a region that is crucial to RSS plans, the Tripura result is more
than just another state victory for the party.

Written by Esha Roy | Updated: March 4, 2018 11:55 am
 Tripura election results 2018: How the state was won Tripura election
results 2018: At an Amit Shah rally in Agartala on February 11. Shah
brought up the issue of the 7th Pay Commission in his speech. (Express
Photo/Abhisek Saha)
The conclusive victory for the BJP in the first electoral contest between
the political Left and Right in the country, winning Tripura by a two-third
majority, was scripted over two years. If the CPM saw it, it did little to
fight back.

>From the issues to pick up, including salaries being paid as per the 4th
Pay Commission in the state when the country had moved onto the 7th, to
targeting the youth, who are believed to have broken ranks with families to
vote for it, and tapping into the RSS’s long-term Northeast agenda to
setting in place its own base, the BJP has been at work since January 2016
to crack the citadel built by the Left over 25 years.

Sunil Deodhar, the BJP Tripura prabhari (in-charge) and former RSS
pracharak, credited to a large extent for the win, was emphatic about what
the victory means for the party, which is now on course to becoming the
most dominant force in the Northeast. Calling the RSS-BJP campaign a
campaign for “Communist-mukt Bharat”, Deodhar told The Sunday Express, “We
have broken the Communist spine with this victory. This was essential. Now
we have broken the backbone of Communism from JNU to Kerala. This is more
than just symbolic for us.”

Read | Tripura Election Results 2018: Left only in Kerala, CPM grapples
with divide within

The Pay Commission

If the issue of unemployment was the fulcrum of the BJP’s call for ‘Vote
for Change’ in the state, it made its point over and over again by
highlighting the non-implementation of the 7th Pay Commission in Tripura.
In a state which still pays salaries to government workers on the basis of
the 4th Pay Commission, this issue found prominent space in the BJP’s
Vision Document for the state, its poll platform as well as speeches of its
leaders from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national president Amit Shah
to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Should the BJP come to power, the leaders
promised, the 7th Pay Commission would be implemented. If a government
servant’s salary is Rs 20,000 under the 4th Pay Commission, it’ll increase
to at least Rs 35,000 under the 7th Pay Commission.

In a state largely dependent on the services sector in the absence of
employment avenues, the defence of Chief Minister Manik Sarkar that Manipur
too had failed to implement the 7th Pay Commission sounded hollow,
especially from a man seeking his fifth term in power.

CPM insiders admitted on Saturday that the Pay Commission issue may have
worked overwhelmingly in the BJP’s favour. “At least 60 per cent of the
government employee votes, we now know, have gone to the BJP,” a party
leader said.

Deodhar agrees. “All the central and state government employees voted for
us. The 7th Pay Commission has been an important issue for us.”

Tripura Assembly Elections 2018, Tripura election results, Tripura BJP
chief Biplab Deb, how tripura was won, Manik Sarkar, tripura government,
Indian Express

Split families

In the heart of Krishnanagar, a congested colony of twisting bylanes, lives
the influential Guha family. Originally from East Bengal (they moved to
Tripura during Partition), the Guhas are traditionally a CPM family, with
Tapan Guha (62) and his elder brother active party workers for years.

Twenty-four years ago, the two walked out of the party. “As we realised
that the CPM was becoming more and more dictatorial, especially with every
win, both of us left,” Tapan says.

Tapan never voted again till February 18 this year, when he cast his ballot
for the BJP. “I knew we needed change. The BJP had given us an alternative
to the Left, which had become so arrogant that it had become difficult to
live in Tripura,” he says.

However, Tapan’s younger brother Tarun, an ENT specialist, again voted for
the Left, as did their father. “I agree with my brother that change is
required. The only reason I voted for the CPM is because I didn’t want this
change to come through the BJP. I don’t agree with their ideology. Their
Hindutva politics makes me uncomfortable. We are peace-loving people and we
want to maintain the peace,” he says.

Tripura election results 2018: Tripura BJP chief Biplab Deb after the
results were declared in Agartala on Saturday. (Express Photo/Abhisek Saha)
The division didn’t run within just the brothers. Explaining why he voted
for the BJP, Tapan’s son Subhadeep Guha, 30, who runs a business of solar
lighting in Agartala, says, “Dalit and Muslim lynchings are not relevant.
Maybe because that is not something that affects us. Nor is Hindutva. I
don’t agree with the RSS philosophy or Hindutva politics, but they won’t
get a foothold with that kind of politics here. I voted for the BJP because
I like Narendra Modi. I like his personality. At least he is trying to do
something. Even notebandi and GST… these could have gone very wrong. But he
took the risk nevertheless. That’s the kind of leadership we need right
now. In Tripura, we are 20 years behind every other state. What has the
Left done for 25 years? Since I was a child, I have only seen one
government. I voted for parivartan.”

In family after family, such divisions were seen in Tripura this election.

Deodhar says that cross-voting by hardcore Left families was one of the
factors for the BJP’s victory. “There has been at least 10 per cent
cross-voting. We knew this would happen. The disgruntlement with the CPM
leadership was high even within party workers and supporters.”

BJP leaders claim that in many districts, Left workers were in touch with
them. “So while many CPM families attended Left rallies and participated in
the campaign even, we knew they would be voting for us,” says a source.

Building the party

Deodhar says the Northeast states have always been very important for the
RSS. “Strategically because of China and Bangladesh, also because of the
infiltration of Bangladeshi Muslims and because of conversions to
Christianity. So in the early ‘90s, the Sangh decided that each Northeast
state would be adopted by another state. Assam was given to Kerala; Manipur
to Karnataka; Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland to Maharashtra; Arunachal to
Vidarbha; and Tripura to West Bengal, because these have similar cultures,”
he says.

Over the past two years, RSS insiders say, the Sangh work in Tripura was
intensified. From around 60 shakhas at the time of the 2014 elections, the
RSS now has 265 shakhas in the state.

“We have nothing to do with electoral politics, but we have been reaching
out to people through our social service. Many families who have joined us
are CPM families. Many of our workers are former CPM workers. The belief
that people of Tripura are Communists is erroneous. The common man does not
know Marx and has not read Das Kapital. They were simply under pressure to
follow Communism because of the ruling party. They were oppressed. We
simply gave them an alternative. Taught them concepts new to them — of desh
bhakti (patriotism), sanskriti (culture) and itihaas (history). They were
not aware. Once they understood, they joined us. Now as many as
15,000-20,000 attend our shakha events,” says an RSS Tripura insider.

He adds that this is not something new. “It was done in 2013 as well, only
this time it got traction.”

As the RSS worked in the background, the BJP put its organisation in place
to match the Left Front’s formidable cadre base. This was important as the
BJP did not have any presence in Tripura, having won only 1.54 per cent of
the votes in the 2013 Assembly polls, with almost every one of its 50
candidates losing their deposits.

Party leaders say over 50,000 BJP and RSS members were hands-on in the
state. They took out morchas and led andolans from mandal to state level —
including Yuva Morchas (by the BJP’s youth wing), Mahila Morcha (women’s
wing), to morchas for SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities and farmers.

‘Vistaraks’ were appointed per constituency to ensure there was no
infighting among mandals and local leaders, while more were brought in from
other states to look after Tripura’s tea estates.

Tripura Assembly Elections 2018, Tripura election results, Tripura BJP
chief Biplab Deb, Manik Sarkar, Tripura Left, Indian Express Tripura
election results 2018: BJP National General Secretary Ram Madhav and
Tripura BJP chief Biplab Kumar Deb greet the supporters after party’s
victory in Tripura Assembly elections results in Agartala on Saturday. (PTI
Each polling booth has about 17-18 pages of voters, and each page has a
list of 60 voters. A ‘panna pramukh’ or page in-charge was given the charge
of each such page, and entrusted to look after the needs of all the 60
voters on it. For the job, local leaders, men and women, were picked up.

Then came ‘Shakti Kendra Vistaraks’ — in-charge of every five booths in the
state. While the BJP does not have a trade union of its own, the Bharatiya
Mazdoor Sangh, affiliated to the RSS, was strengthened and its membership

The BJP also launched its ambitious online registration of voters, through
missed calls given to a number. Deodhar says over two lakh members were
registered with it by the time of elections.

Another idea was ‘Train Samparaks’, who would travel on trains wearing
Modi-T-shirts and hand out BJP pamphlets to passengers. They would talk to
passengers, take down their phone numbers, ask them about their problems,
from water issues to gas cylinder difficulties, and pass the same along to
party workers in Agartala.

The BJP says this army of workers went through “prashikshan (training)”,
including lessons on ideology, nationalism and Indian culture.

Finally, just ahead of the elections, 400 ‘Vistaraks’ were brought in from

Admits CPM state secretary Bijan Dhar, “They had resources that we simply
did not — from the money they poured into the campaign to the number of
people they mobilised and brought in from outside.”

The tribal vote

>From the beginning, the BJP was clear that Tripura could not be won without
the tribal vote, the Left’s lifeblood in the state. A month before the
elections, it tied up with the IPFT (Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura).

The party has been backing the IPFT for some time now, with CPM leaders
accusing the BJP of instigating the riots between IPFT workers and CPM
during the Agartala violence of August 2016. But it held off its decision
as it weighed its options. Says a BJP leader, “We had been in touch with
all the anti-Left regional parties. We felt the IPFT had managed to build a
strong tribal base on the back of its demand for a separate state for
tribals and so was the best bet for us.”

In the run-up to the elections, the BJP made it clear that it did not back
a separate tribal state, so as to not lose the majority Bengali vote in the
state. Despite that, the party’s faith in the IPFT was eventually
justified, with the tribal outfit winning eight of the nine seats it

BJP supporters celebrate victory in Tripura Agartala: BJP supporters wave
party flag to celebrate BJP’s win, which brought down 25 years of CPI-M
government rule, after Tripura Assembly election results were announced in
Agartala on Saturday. PTI Photo (PTI3_3_2018_000039B)
On Saturday, the desertion of the CPM by tribals was evident. While the
party has never won less than 18 of the 20 tribal seats in the state, this
time it got only two, Jolaibarri and Manu. Among the CPM leaders who stood
defeated was Deputy Chief Minister and tribal leader Aghore Debbarman, who
lost from the Left’s strongest bastion, Asharambari, by a significant
margin of 7,000 votes. Even in 1988, when the Congress formed a government
in the state, Asharambari had given the CPM its largest-ever win.

Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhwal, a former rebel commander and president of IPFT
rival INPT (Indigenous Nationalist Front of Tripura), says the BJP victory
was inevitable. “We don’t agree with the IPFT demand for a separate state,
but the writing on the wall was there. The tribals were feeling alienated,
neglected. This is not a bad verdict as far as we are concerned. We don’t
support the BJP, but something had to change. The tribals have been loyal
to the CPM time after time, but without getting anything in return. There
are 10,000 tribal youths without jobs. Do you think that is a small matter?
How will tribal families feed themselves without jobs? The tribal youth had
had enough, and they are the ones who brought about the change,” says

The PM’s rallies

Modi addressed four rallies in Tripura, unprecedented for a PM for a such a
small state. On February 8, he held two public meetings — in Sonamura in
south Tripura, and Kailashshahar in north Tripura. Among the audience were
people from all the surrounding Assembly constituencies. If this visit is
believed to have given the BJP crucial impetus, his second visit just three
days ahead of the February 18 elections, where he did two rallies again —
in Shantirbazar in south Tripura, and then in Agartala city — drawing
record crowds, sealed the deal. Combined with his growing popularity in the
state, these rallies gave crucial last-minute push to the BJP.

Senior BJP leaders also continuously visited the state to boost the
workers’ morale, especially if there were any attacks on them in a state
controlled by the CPM — a point Modi emphasised in his victory speech on
Saturday. Sources said the BJP spent more than Rs 15 lakh on medical
expenses of its “injured cadres”.

“Fifty-two ministers visited Tripura in the last three years. This sent a
message that the BJP leadership and Central government were keen to see the
welfare of the people in Tripura,” Deodhar says.

***In a rare confession by a Left leader, Politburo member Mohammad Salim
said on Saturday, “The BJP had many devices, especially the social media,
to woo the youth. But it is true that in a state like Tripura there are
issues. Unemployment, for instance, is a grave issue. We as a party will
have to introspect. There are things that we need to do, we have to
reinvent and repackage ourselves.”*** [Emphasis added.]


Agartala: A BJP supporters wear a mask of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to
celebrate party’s victory in Tripura Assembly elections in Agartala on
Saturday. BJP’s win marks an end to 25 years of CPI-M government rule in
the state. PTI Photo
The scriptwriters of the victory

Sunil Deodhar
A Maharashtra-born RSS pracharak, Deodhar was sent to Tripura by BJP
president Amit Shah in 2014, and a large share of the credit for the party
winning the Left bastion goes to Deodhar.

In the two and a half years that he spent in the state, Deodhar, 54, has
visited all 60 constituencies of Tripura at least three times each. Under
him, the BJP appointed 3,209 agents for the 3,214 polling booths in the
state; the Congress, with 35 per cent vote share last time, has only 1,500
booth agents.

A major call Deodhar took was for the BJP to directly take on CPM Chief
Minister Manik Sarkar, a leader of impeccable personal credentials. “We
tried to establish that being honest and simple is not enough, one has to
be effective,” Deodhar says.

He convinced the BJP to reach out to leaders from other parties to build
its non-existent base in the state, and to strike an unthinkable deal with
the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), a tribal outfit seeking a
separate state. Deodhar also zeroed in on Biplab Kumar Deb as state party
chief, and Deb is expected to be the new CM.

He was chosen for the Northeast due to his 11-year experience of working as
an RSS pracharak in the region.

>From 2005-10, he worked with ‘My Home India’, an initiative to provide
assistance to northeastern students in different parts of India. In 2010,
he joined the BJP and was made convener of the Northeastern cell by then
party chief Nitin Gadkari. Deodhar caught the eye of Narendra Modi when, in
2013, he won the BJP three of six seats in Gujarat’s Dahod district, a
Congress bastion. In the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Modi made him in-charge of
his Varanasi constituency.

Biplab Kumar Deb
The youngest state chief of the BJP, the 49-year-old RSS volunteer was
apparently reluctant to take over the mantle in 2016. But with party
leaders desperate to pit a young face against the experienced Manik Sarkar,
Deb, a native of south Tripura’s Udaipur, was brought back from the
national capital. Sources say he is likely to be announced as the new chief

Read | Biplab Deb: In two years, from greenhorn in Tripura to CM frontrunner

Party leaders credit the spectacular victory to his leadership. A father of
two, Deb’s wife, Niti, is a deputy manager at the State Bank of India’s
Parliament House branch in Delhi.

Ram Madhav
The BJP’s win in these polls is another high for the party general
secretary. Since his induction into the BJP in 2014, Madhav, 53, a
full-time RSS worker since 1981, has undertaken some difficult tasks,
including engineering the historical alliance between the BJP and the PDP
in J&K. While he relied on Deodhar and Deb in Tripura, in Nagaland,
Madhav’s right-hand man Priyang Pandey, who is with the India Foundation,
handled the electioneering. Sources say Madhav had promised the Prime
Minister 40 seats from the last red bastion.

Himanta Biswa Sarma
Since he quit the Congress to join the BJP in 2015, Sarma, 49, as convener
of the BJP-led North East Democratic Alliance, has played a crucial role in
BJP’s government formation in Assam, Manipur and Arunachal. In Tripura,
Sarma was key to the BJP stitching an alliance with The Indigenous Peoples
Front of Tripura, which helped the party take tribal seats. Of those behind
the victory, Sarma is the only one without a Sangh background — the
one-time Assam Congress strategist is now a virulent critic of his former
party and Rahul Gandhi.

Peace Is Doable

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