Tripura’s CPI-M cadres and supporters are perhaps the country’s most passionate communists. On the face of an aggressive campaign by the BJP mega stars including the likes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a perceived hardliner Yogi Adityanath and despite erosion among the cadre base, they do not seem to give up so easily.
Therefore, hours after UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath addressed a largely attended rally here, there was equally huge turnout of Left supporters and cadres – clad in red T shirts, saris and hats – to attend the rally by senior CPI-M member Brinda Karat.
Ms Karat, a vocal former Rajya Sabha MP, did not fail the cadres’ enthusiasm. “Just five days left for polls in Tripura…..we find choppers hovering around. Are these only helicopters?”
“Kaun sa chil ghum raha hae Tripura ko khan eke liye (We really do not know what kind of conspirators are flying around to finish Tripura),” says Ms Karat amid thunderous applause.
Her reference is to the BJP’s tie up with the tribal group Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT). The CPI-M is trying to make a big issue of the alliance and trying to retain its hold among the overwhelming Bengali Hindu population – who had migrated from Bangladesh in 1947 and later also in 1971.
The CPI-M trump card to this section of voters is clear: “If BJP and IPFT come to cover, they may carve out a separate ‘Tripraland’ for tribals and hence destroy the present structure of the state.
IPFT has in the past made strong demand for formation of a separate homeland for tribals. The apprehension of creation of a separate state has somehow unnerved a section of Bengali Hindu voters, who feel such a move will again render them homeless. “We are victims of India’s partition. We cannot face another partition after so many decades,” says 84-year-old Khokha Das.
BJP leaders like Manoj Kanti Deb says, “The CPI-M is actually nervous as tribals and tea garden working community are overwhelmingly coming to attend BJP’s rallies. Even at a stage where sloganeering Jai Shri Ram went on for a rally by Yogi Adityanath, Muslims and tribal Christians have joined BJP”.
The CPI-M leader Brinda Karat counters these claims vehemently. “In all BJP ruled states, tribals, Dalits and Muslims are worst victims,” she says. She tries to explain that as against the BJP’s established policies of pro-liberalistaion where lands are given out to capitalists and industrialists, the tribals in Tripura in effect cherish that “the land, the jungles, the water in the hills, all natural resources” actually belong to the people.
Ms Karat also ridiculed BJP fielding leaders like Yogi Adityanath and others for the campaign and says, “the utterances of central and other BJP leaders sum up one thing that BJP is not ‘Janata’ party but rather Bharatiya Jhagda Party”.
She appealed to the voters in Kanchanpur and also in nearby Dharmanagar seat to vote overwhelmingly for the Left candidates. “Ora ekhon bolcheey Chalo Paltai (Let us change), your vote should make them say Chalo Palai (Let us run away from Tripura)”.
The crowd do not fail her and a large number of cadres scream: ‘Lal Salam…Lal Salam’. The CPI-M candidate from Kanchanpur ST reserved seat is sitting legislator Rajednra Renag. In Dharmanagar, in a well attended rally, Ms Karat campaigned for party candidate Abhijeet Dey, who is pitted against a local heavyweight Bishwabandhu Sen, a turncoat from Congress and now a BJP nominee.