Agartala: With Tripura set to vote on Sunday in the first-ever straight contest between the Left and the Right in an Assembly election, Agartala witnessed a last minute poll pitch by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. From targeting the incumbent CPM-led government and the Opposition Congress to promising post-poll sops and better implementation of welfare schemes in the state, the prime minister made an all-round pitch for his party in the Left bastion.
Tripura will go to polls on 18 February with 59 of the 60 seats in fray. The election for Charilam constituency in Sepahijala district, however, will be held on 12 March due to the death of CPM candidate Ramendra Narayan Debbarma on 11 February, the Election Commission announced on Thursday.
With BJP supporters trickling in the capital since Thursday morning, both the venues were tinged saffron by the time Modi started speaking. While the party cadres expected roughly two lakh people to turn up, a crowd of almost six lakh turned up for the two rallies, a senior official of the RAF said. The loud cheers to Modi's speech explained why BJP still depends on the prime minister to give the final push during election campaigns.
Romesh Chandra Sarkar, who was a CPM supporter till May 2017 is now president of SC morcha, the saffron party's Scheduled Caste wing in Town Bordowali constituency.
"Under Prime Minister Modi, India has grown in stature," Sarkar said, adding that before Modi became the prime minister, global leaders used to look down upon Indian leaders, "but now they treat him as their equal".
Meanwhile, security remained tight through out Thursday in Agartala. Superintendent of Police (Control Room) Pradip Dey said the security arrangements for Modi's rally were supervised by the SPG from New Delhi and he was not authorised to divulge details. Several companies of central armed police forces such as BSF, CRPF, SSB and ITBP were deployed. Five companies from the Rajasthan Police were also deployed to assist the state police in the security arrangements apart from several companies of the Punjab Armed Police.
Before landing in Agartala to address two consecutive rallies in Shanti Bazaar and Asthabal Maidan on Thursday, the prime minister also visited Arunachal Pradesh to participate in three events, including the inauguration of the Dorjee Khandu state convention centre in Itanagar, where he also announced to start a biweekly express train between New Delhi and Naharlagun.
'Left believes in gun-tantra'
The prime minister invoked the recent deaths of BJP workers, claiming that the Left government was resorting to bloodshed, sensing that its end is near. Modi claimed that the murders of 10 BJP workers and a journalist was carried out by the ruling party's supporters ahead of the polls.
Speaking in Hindi, Modi used rhyming words to hit out at Manik Sarkar government and make his point: "Left parties do not believe in democracy (ganatantra) they believe in gun-tantra," Modi said. "They murdered our 10 BJP workers. They killed journalists," he alleged.
However, it is noteworthy that the autopsy report of Madhusudhan Deb, a booth president of BJP in the Ramnagar Assembly constituency who the prime minister claimed was killed, stated the death as "suicidal in nature". Deb's body was found was found hanging in Barjala on Sunday and the BJP has been crying foul over the death, accusing the CPM of killing its cadres.
The prime minister also said that if BJP comes to power, Tripura would boast of the youngest government in the country. "Almost all BJP candidates are young. The state will benefit from exuberance and energy of the youth," Modi said.
'Will implement 7th pay commission'
Arguing that the Left government's arrogance has become a barrier to development and welfare of the people, Modi asked why the state government employees in Tripura are still being paid as per the Fourth Pay Commission and not the seventh. Drawing an analogy between a red traffic signal, and the traditional symbolic red colour of the Left parties, Modi said that development was halted under the Reds' rule, just like a traffic signal.
He promised the people that the Seventh Pay Commission will be implemented in the state and minimum wages will be provided to all workers if BJP comes to power.
"Why don’t Tripura’s labourers get minimum wage? You protest in Delhi and shut down factories in Mumbai, but force people to die of starvation in Tripura," Modi said.
For some, however, it is the resentment with the Left that is pulling them towards the BJP, and not just the popularity of the prime minister.
Dilip Kumar Dev, 66, who came from Town Bordowali Assembly constituency, said he would support the saffron party even without Modi's pitch because the Left Front government only works for the party and exploits government employees by not giving them proper salaries.
Meera Saha, 35, a housewife from Town Bordowali in Agartala, said the BJP is most likely to come to power in her constituency as the sitting MLA Ashish Saha, who has switched to BJP from Congress, has performed well. Her opinion was shared by Manisha Bhil, 24, of Bamutia (SC) Assembly constituency, who was "more than 100 percent sure of the BJP coming into power."
Exuding confidence that Krishna Dhan Das, the BJP candidate from her constituency will win the election, Bhil said the BJP candidates in the fray are all promising and should be given a chance.
Sanjay Chowdhary, 52, a shopkeeper attending the prime minister's rally said that Left Front being in power for 25 years should be enough of a reason for people to vote for change. Rajesh Bhil, a 29 year old farmer, said he used to support the CPM until he got fed up with their politics. They want the poor to remain poor, he said.
Armstrong Chanambam is an Imphal-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters.
Updated Date: Feb 15, 2018 22:38 PM