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|September 30, 1999||
Constituency/ Tripura West
Trinamul, BJP, TUJS alliance shakes up the Left and Congress
As the 'flowers and grass', the symbol of the Trinamul Congress, slowly grows in popularity, both major political entities -- the ruling CPI-M-led Left Front and the Congress -- appear jittery for the first time in Tripura's electoral history.
Since the 1952 Lok Sabha election, the electorate of this tiny state has remained sharply polarised in its loyalty to the Left parties and the Congress. This electoral scene almost routinely reappeared till last year, except for the assembly election in 1978 when the Tripura Upajati Juba Samity, a tribal-based party, won four seats on its own to emerge as a third force in the state.
However, the political situation in Tripura forced the TUJS to find a friendly party in the Congress. They entered into a political understanding and fought four assembly and as many Lok Sabha elections together from 1983 onwards. This bi-polar electoral scene in Tripura seems to have undergone a major change this time with the emergence of the Trinamul Congress, apparently at the cost of the Congress.
After the TUJS, on its own, snapped its 17-year-old-ties with the Congress, the BJP, the Trinamul Congress and the TUJS have formed an alliance to defeat the ruling Left Front and the Congress.
Former state chief minister and veteran Congress leader Sudhir Ranjan Majumder, who resigned from the Congress and was appointed state TC president, is seeking election from Tripura West, one of the two Lok Sabha constituencies of the state, the other being Tripura East.
The CPI-M has fielded former state home minister Samar Chowdhury, a member of the dissolved Lok Sabha, while the Congress has put up a young lawyer, Pijush Kanti Biswas against Majumder.
On October 3, an electorate of 940,753, including 454,431 women, would decide the fate of 12 aspirants, including the nominee of the Nationalist Congress Party, contesting from this constituency, which comprises seven tribal and five Scheduled Caste reserved assembly segments, besides 18 general segments spread over hills and plains.
Since the first Lok Sabha election, the Left parties have won the seat seven times (1952, 1962, 1971, 1980, 1984, 1996 and 1998), and the Congress four times (1957, 1967, 1989 and 1991). In 1977, some Congressmen floated the Congress For Democracy with the help of the Janata Party, and its leader and Tripura's first chief minister Sachindra Lal Singh won the seat.
In the last Lok Sabha election, the Left Front candidate Samar Chowdhury had secured 47 per cent of the total valid votes, while Congress nominee Radhika Ranjan Gupta got 45 per cent of the valid votes and BJP candidate H S Roychowdhury seven per cent.
In the 1996 election, the Left Front and the Congress candidates secured 51 per cent and 39 per cent of the votes respectively. The organisational shambles and internal feud to which the Congress has been reduced to in the wake of the TC's emergence and the TUJS's desertion have already benefited the Left Front. A large number of leaders, including the sitting MLA, former ministers and MLAs, besides workers, have flocked to Sudhir Majumder, who was once the Tripura Pradesh Congress president, chief minister and a Rajya Sabha member.
Insurgency and unemployment remain the main issue of the campaign of all political parties. The Left Front blamed the BJP-led government at the Centre for ''not providing additional paramilitary forces to curb insurgency in the state,'' while the Congress, and the BJP-Trinamul Congress-TUJS alliance accused the state government for its failure to tackle extremist activities.
Chief minister and CPI-M Politburo member Manik Sarkar, state CPI-M secretary Baidyanath Majumder and Finance Minister Badal Chowdhury were the main campaigners for the Left Front, while TPCC president Gopal Roy and Opposition leader Samir Ranjan Burman campaigned for the Congress.
Majumder, former information minister Ratan Chakraborty, TUJS general secretary Rabindra Debbarma and state BJP president H S Roychowdhury were the principal speakers of the three-party alliance.
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