Agartala: Opposition parties in Tripura have been describing the change in leadership in the state as a sign of the ruling BJP’s “failure”, and say it will only work in their favour in the 2023 assembly elections.
In a sudden move Saturday, Biplab Kumar Deb announced his resignation as Chief Minister. Manik Saha, who has served as state BJP president and is a member of the Rajya Sabha, was chosen to replace him. The BJP formed its first-ever government in the state in 2018.
Speaking to ThePrint, Trinamool Congress state convenor Subal Bhowmik said the BJP should “clarify to the people why there was a change”.
“For one-and-a-half years, Manik Saha’s supporters raised the slogan ‘Biplab hatao, rajya bachao (remove Biplab, save the state)’ at the Tripura guest house. Because of the government’s performance in the past 4.5 years, they (the party) didn’t want to contest the elections with Biplab at the forefront,” he added.
Former deputy speaker in the Tripura assembly and CPI(M) leader — the party is the main opposition in the state — Pabitra Kar spoke of a “palpable anger among the people against the government”.
“The central leadership has understood it was not possible to keep him (Deb) on as the CM,” he added.
Animesh Debbarma, a leader of the Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) Motha and deputy chief executive member of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) said, “By changing the chief minister, just after four years, it proves that the BJP has failed in their commitment to the people. They did not fulfil the commitment they made to the people in the 2018 elections.”
Among other things, the Opposition has also questioned the state of law-and-order in Tripura under the BJP government, alleging that it was among the factors that led to Deb’s exit.
No change in strategy for opposition parties
The change in CM has come months ahead of assembly elections in the state, which will see the Trinamool Congress and TIPRA Motha contest for the Tripura House for the first time.
According to opposition leaders in the state, however, the change in chief minister will not impact their chances in the upcoming polls.
“He (Manik Saha) has never fought elections, so I don’t know for what reason he was elevated. I don’t think this will profit them (the BJP) in any way,” said Bhowmik.
Saha, a dentist by profession, joined the BJP from the Congress in 2016. In 2018, he was made in-charge of the booth management committee, and, two years later, he was appointed chief of the party’s state unit. This year, Saha was elected to the lone Rajya Sabha seat from the state.
“Nothing will change with this move,” CPI(M)’s Pabitra Kar claimed and added, “We will only increase the pace and intensity of our campaigning.”
Debbarma agreed. “This will definitely help us, people will not vote for the BJP. What new things can the party say — why have they changed the CM — and, in the last four years, whatever they couldn’t do, they’ll do in the next six months? It is impossible,” he said.
Opposition leaders also expressed concern about increasing “law-and-order” problems in the state.
A spate of violence in the state last year saw offices of media companies and the CPI(M) being attacked and ransacked. Several parts of the state also witnessed alleged attacks on mosques.
In an interview with ThePrint after becoming CM, Saha had said that the law-and-order situation in the state was “stable”, as compared to what it was during the tenure of the Left government. “That (the stability of the law and order) should continue, that is my first priority and it should always be for the safety of the people,” he had said.
Recalling his comment, Bhowmik said, “Saha said he will focus on law and order, then it just means that under Biplab it wasn’t good.”
Meanwhile, Kar said, “Tripura has become the corridor of drugs (trafficking), atrocity against women has increased, divisions (in society) have been created. The Constitution hasn’t been upheld here. For these reasons, with 10 months left to the elections he (Biplab Deb) was removed, to make way for a new face.”
Debbarma added: “There is no law-and-order in the state, no one is safe today. Women are not safe, politicians are not safe. Democracy isn’t there. Opposition political parties aren’t allowed to have mass gatherings. People aren’t allowed to have mass gatherings. So where is the democracy, when you cannot talk against the government?”
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)