Tripura registered a huge voter turnout with over 81 per cent of the electorate exercising their franchise (till 4 pm) on February 16. According to sources, the figure is likely to go up further. The Assembly polls, however, witnessed sporadic violence where members of the Opposition parties were allegedly targeted by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Political clashes broke out in places such as Khayerpur and Old Agartala in West Tripura district, Santirbazar in South Tripura district, Dhanpur in Sepahijala district, and Udaipur in Gomati district. According to reports, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) faced the brunt of the violence allegedly perpetrated by the BJP. In certain constituencies, there were complaints of voters being assaulted and being prevented from casting their votes.
A close triangular contest is expected for the 60 Assembly seats, with old rivals the CPI(M) and the Congress joining forces on one side, the BJP-Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) alliance on another, and the newly formed Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) Motha party on the third side.
Motha, headed by Pradyot Manikya Debbarman, a scion of the former Tripura royal family, is being perceived as a possible ‘kingmaker’ with its massive tribal support base and political dominance in the 20 reserved Assembly seats in the tribal belt.
Though the BJP-IPFT alliance had stormed to power in 2018, winning 43 out of the 60 seats, the saffron party may not find the going as easy in this election, as not only is it facing the uncertainties of a triangular fight, it has also got to contend with a strong anti-incumbency sentiment at the ground level.
Moreover, with Motha elbowing out the IPFT and establishing itself as the strongest party in the tribal region, the BJP has lost its advantage over other opponents in the previous Assembly polls.
The BJP has contested in 55 seats and the IPFT in six seats, and the two will take on each other in one constituency – Ampinagar. The CPI(M)has fielded candidates in 47 seats, leaving 13 seats for the Congress, whose political fortunes took a nosedive after the last elections.
Interestingly, TIPRA Motha has contested in 42 seats, even though its strength lies mainly across the 20 reserved seats that fall under the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) region.
The Trinamool Congress, which has been trying to extend its political base beyond West Bengal, has contested in 28 seats. Fifty-eight independent candidates have also contested the polls. According to the Election Commission, Tripura has an electorate of over 28 lakh, of which 14,15,233 are male voters, 13,99,289 are women and 62 belong to the third gender.