As I see it, BJP’s Tripura win is more a loss of Congress, than of Left. The vote share of Congress reduced from about 37% in 2013 to 2%, in 2018, whereas BJP’s share increased from 2% in 2013 to 41% in 2018. Basically, it was a transfer of Congress votes to the BJP. Congress leaders who had been out of power for 20 years saw no future in remaining in Congress. Congress was never aspiring to form the government. Their objective was to keep the BJP out. But they didn’t have any pre-poll alliance with the Left. Their leaders at the grassroots level, therefore, seem to have been easily bought over by the BJP through money power and promises of positions of power. Out of 42 BJP MLAs who won in these elections, 33 were in Congress earlier in 2013.
On the other hand, despite the anti-incumbency of 20 years, the Left government experienced only a 3% fall in their vote share. Had Congress been able to retain only 50% of its vote share it achieved in 2013, BJP wouldn’t have been able to win. Alternatively, Congress should have entered a pre-poll alliance with the Left. I know that could have happened if Sitaram Yechury’s proposal was accepted. Prakash Karat is also partly a factor in Left’s loss in Tripura. Having said all this, you have to give the credit to the BJP for being able to convince people without any major achievements to back up. And to people of Tripura for falling to their promises. Only time will tell if those promises are met.
Writer Arun Arya,IAS is a senior Sector Management Speacialist at World Bank