Efforts to build a base for the party in state began soon after the 2013 assembly elections.
New Delhi: From 1.54 per cent against CPM’s 48 per cent in 2013, the BJP’s voteshare in Tripura has leapt to 43.7 per cent this election season. The party’s turnaround in the state, a Left bastion for over 25 years, can be credited to a team working on the ground for over three years to build a base for it. Meet the men behind the BJP’s Tripura triumph:
Sunil Deodhar – The sutradhar
The former RSS pracharak had spent years in Meghalaya before he came to Tripura on 10 November 2014. Party chief Amit Shah had tasked him with building a base for the BJP ahead of the 2018 polls.
Deodhar had earlier led the then PM-elect Narendra Modi’s poll campaign in Varanasi in 2014, and served as the convenor of a party cell dedicated to the Northeast. He was the one who brought Tripura BJP chief Biplab Kumar Deb, his student at an RSS shakha, to the state in a bid to build a young leadership. In two-and-a-half years, Deodhar helped bring the scattered opposition in the state into the BJP’s fold.
His social organisation – MyHomeIndia – helped connect students from the Northeast to the rest of the country.
Talking about the BJP’s performance, Deodhar said, “It is only because of the vision of party chief Amit Shah that we are where we are today. He guided me at every step.”
Biplab Kumar Deb
A potential CM candidate, he joined active politics in Tripura in 2015. His political brush began in the 1990s. Working with RSS veteran and former BJP general secretary Govindacharya gave him leverage within the party, and, when the NDA assumed office at the Centre in the late 1990s, he joined the staff of Union minister Rita Verma. He subsequently joined the office of Satna MP Ganesh Singh, and stayed there for 13 years.
He was brought to Tripura as the BJP realised the need to project a young face with no political past, and national general secretary (organisation) Ramlal convinced him to take charge of the BJP’s Mahasampark Abhiyaan in the state. As Deb travelled to every corner of the state, his acceptability grew. He was announced state BJP president in January 2017.
The former Congress MLA is credited with the BJP’s fast expansion in the Left strongholds in Tripura. When he lost the 2013 polls, Bhowmik blamed it on fellow Congress members’ “anti-party activities” and formed his own party, the Tripura Pragatisheel Grameen Congress, which was subsequently merged with the BJP. He has served as the party’s eyes and ears on the ground, and been known to reach any site of CPM-BJP clashes to assist party cadres. “He would travel across the state without security and help the cadres,” said a senior BJP leader. Bhowmik was attacked thrice during the poll campaign, which left him with serious injuries.
The son of former Tripura CM Samir Ranjan Barman is a former Congress MLA. Sources said Deb did not want Barman in the BJP as he could be a rival contender for the post of CM. But a stern warning from Amit Shah in favour of Barman led to his induction.
Tinku Roy, Jishnu Debbbarma, Bimal Chakma and Rampad Jamatia
Yuva morcha president Roy was tasked with bringing the youth into the BJP’s fold, while Debbarma and Chakma were instrumental in boosting the party’s appeal among tribals. Former VHP member Jamatia was also brought to the BJP for his strong base among tribals.
Himanta Biswa Sarma
The Assam minister was mainly responsible for pulling off the BJP’s alliance with the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT), which looks set to win eight seats. The BJP brass believes winning the state would have been impossible in the absence of the alliance.