The Lok Sabha election campaign is reaching its peak in Tripura, with 25 candidates, (13 : West; 12: East) the highest so far, contesting in the two constituencies of the only Left-ruled State.
The election this time is significant for major parties for different reasons. The Communist Party of India (Marxist), in power in the State for many years with decisive support from the electorate, is working hard not only to win but also to enhance its vote share.
The reason the CPI(M) decided to go in for new faces in the West Tripura and the East Tripura (tribal reserved) constituencies may perhaps be to achieve the twin aims. Jitendra Choudhury, popular tribal leader and Industries Minister, is its candidate in the East constituency, which is going to the polls on April 12, and youth leader Shankar Prasad Datta in the West (April 7), replacing three-time MPs Bajuban Reang and Khagen Das, who will now devote themselves to party affairs in the State.
Development work, tackling of insurgency, job creation, ethnic and communal harmony and implementation of schemes to reduce poverty and improve the living condition of the poor are major election planks of the Manik Sarkar government. The CPI(M) has been making clear its aim of defeating both the “communal” Bharatiya Janata Party and the “corrupt” Congress, and install an alternative government at the Centre as it makes its poll pitch before the nearly 24 lakh voters, 33 percent of them tribal, in the State.
The immediate rival of the CPI(M) had been the Congress for decades till the Trinamool Congress became a force to reckon with.
Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee, who has given a call to oust the CPI(M) in the State as she did in West Bengal, is arriving on April 1 for the second round of her campaign.
She has fielded the former Congress Minister and chairman of the Trinamool State unit, Ratan Chakraborty, in the West constituency with a eye on restricting the fight between the CPI(M) and her party.
The Trinamool nominee in the East constituency, Bhriguram Reang, does not have much political clout. So is Sanjit Reang of the Congress. The Congress, however, tried to make an impression in the West constituency by nominating Arunoday Saha, the first Vice-Chancellor of Tripura University, a Central institution.
Mr. Saha is facing a challenge from the former Congress MLA Subal Bhowmik, who is contesting as Tripura Pragatishil Gramin Congress candidate. Mr. Bhowmik has a good following in parts of West Tripura, and his party is going to eat into the Congress vote share.
Tripura remains a CPI(M) bastion even after the party went out of power in West Bengal and Kerala.
The State saw a high voter turnout of 92 per cent in the previous Assembly election.