Tripura’s second LS seat votes Saturday (Curtain Raiser – Election Special)

Agartala, April 10: The second Lok Sabha seat in India’s lone Left-ruled state Tripura goes to the polls Saturday. The other seat voted April 7.

The tribal reserved Tripura East Lok Sabha constituency has 12 candidates, including two women, in the electoral fray.

“As Tripura East shares borders with Bangladesh (856 km), Assam (53 km) and Mizoram (109 km), tight security measures have been taken in the mountainous Lok Sabha constituency,” state Chief Electoral Officer Ashutosh Jindal told IANS.

On April 7, over 86 percent of the 1.2 million voters cast their votes in the Tripura West constituency.

Manipur State Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force, Assam Rifles and Border Security Force personnel besides the state’s security forces would be deployed to help conduct the polls freely and fairly.

Over 1.13 million voters – half of whom are women – are eligible to exercise their franchise to elect their Lok Sabha member.

The main battle will be between Communist Party of India-Marxist’s Jitendra Choudhury and Sachitra Debbarma of the Congress.

Choudhury is Tripura’s industry, commerce and rural development minister, while Debbarma is a national award winning teacher.

Others in the fray include Parikshit Debbarma (Bharatiya Janata Party), Bhriguram Reang (Trinamool Congress) and Karna Bijoy Jamatia (Aam Aadmi Party).

Since 1952, the Left has won the Tripura East seat 10 times while the Congress secured the seat five times. The CPI-M has been winning the seat uninterrupted since 1996.

Former Communist chief minister Dasaratha Deb (1993-98) won from the seat four times while CPI-M central committee member Bajuban Reang was elected a record seven times.

“While the CPI-M has a stronghold among the tribals, the Congress has little base and is now in disarray and witnessing factional feud,” political analyst Tapan Datta said.

Tribals constitute one third of the total 3.7 million population in Tripura.

“The non-Left opposition parties in Tripura are only fighting the Lok Sabha polls for second, third or fourth positions. The combined opposition parties’ vote share would not cross even 40 percent this time,” Datta told IANS.

After the assembly polls in February 2013, Congress leader and former legislator Subal Bhowmik along with many other leaders deserted the party and formed the Tripura Pragatisheel Gramin Congress (TPGC).

In September-October last year, many Congress leaders, including Surajit Datta, Ratan Chakraborty and Jawar Saha, all former ministers, broke away from the party and set up the Tripura unit of the Trinamool Congress.

CPI-M candidates got 62 percent votes in the 2009 polls and 69 percent in the 2004 election while the combined share of votes of all opposition parties, including independents, was 38.31 percent and 31.20 percent, respectively.

“During the past 62 years, Left parties’ vote share has gradually increased in Tripura. During last year’s assembly polls, the Left’s vote share was around 53 percent. This triumph is mostly due to Chief Minister Manik Sarkar,” Datta said.

The ruling CPI-M this time dropped both its sitting members – Khagen Das (Tripura West) and Bajuban Reang (Tripura East).

The CPI-M is focusing on the development work it has done in Tripura, while attacking the Congress-led union government for poor governance, price rise and corruption in the country.

The opposition is focussing on the Left’s alleged misgovernance, unemployment and rising crimes against women.