2018 saw collapse of red bastion in Tripura

Agartala | The BJP storming to power ending 25 years of Left rule was the major news in Tripura in 2018 which saw some cracks in the ruling alliance with the IPFT fighting the panchayat elections separately and also raking up its separate Triparaland demand.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) also differed sharply on the issue of a National Register of Citizens (NRC) in the state like the one in neighbouring Assam. Lotus bloomed in Tripura in March after which a nine-member ministry headed by Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb took oath in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Congress, which hitherto used to be the main challenger to the Left Front in the state, lost ground and could not get even a single MLA elected to the 60-member house in the February poll. Sudip Roy Burman, who headed the state Congress in the 2013 assembly elections but switched over to the BJP this time, said, “In 2013, the CPI(M) faced strong anti-incumbency but Congress central leadership had helped the CPI(M) in the state clandestinely for enjoying the party’s support in Parliament.”

BJP workers celebrated the end of the red bastion in Tripura by bringing down a five-feet-tall statue of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin at Belonia town, the district headquarters of South Tripura district on March 4. The BJP government initiated several steps to erase the legacy of the long Left rule.

A week before Deb shifted to the chief minister’s residence, the state government changed the name of the road leading to it from ‘Marx Angel’s Sarani’ to ‘Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Lane’. After taking charge, Deb was in the news for the wrong reasons. He made several remarks that triggered widespread criticism — the Internet and satellite communication existed during Mahabharata era, civil and not mechanical engineers should opt for civil services, educated youths should set up paan shops instead of seeking government jobs and youths should explore a career in dairy field and keep cows. He was also rapped for questioning the crowning of Diana Hayden as Miss World in 1997 and claiming that Rabindranath Tagore had rejected his Nobel prize in protest against the British government.

The new government conducted by-elections to 3,386 seats of local bodies — 3,200 gram panchayat, 161 panchayat samiti and 18 zilla parishad — in September after these fell vacant following large-scale resignations of elected representatives of the Left parties. The BJP won unopposed 96 per cent of the gram panchayat and panchayat samiti seats and all the 18 zila parishad seats in the polls.

In November, the Tripura government announced doing away with the school curriculum of the Left regime from next academic session and replacing it with CBSE syllabus and also decided introduction of NCERT books for students. The shift of power witnessed violent clashes between the CPI(M) and the BJP at many places during 2018. The CPI-M state secretary had on March 4 alleged that at least two persons were murdered and 240 leaders and workers of the party were injured in BJP-IPFT sponsored post-poll violence in the state.

On April 10, CPI (M) leader Prakash Karat visited some areas in West Tripura district and said his party would not “tolerate attacks on democracy”. While the BJP and the IPFT bonded to overthrow the Left Front from power, differences soon started cropped up between them on several issues. The IPFT fought election to three-tier local bodies separately but could not stop the BJP’s forward march in the state. Soon after the publication of the final draft of the NRC in Assam on July 30, Deb said there was no demand for such a citizens’ register. But the IPFT differed and demanded citizens’ registration in the state.

On October 8, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Tripura government in response to a writ petition seeking revision of the NRC. Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi issued the notice to the state and central asking for their views.

In October, the IPFT renewed its demand for a separate Tipraland state for tribals to protect and safeguard their socio-economic and political interests. The IPFT placed the demand to a high power committee set up by the Ministry of Home Affairs to probe the socio-economic, cultural and linguistic problems faced by Tripura’s tribal communities.

As the year drew to a close, Tripura is set to get a waterways between Sonamura in Sipahijala district and Ashuganj port in Eastern Bangladesh covering a distance of about 70 km. This would facilitate transportation of goods from Kolkata to Ashuganj and then to Sonamura by small ships.

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