6 Trinamool Men In The Bag, BJP Eyes The Congress In Tripura

Six Trinamool Congress legislators have joined the BJP in Tripura, sources say one Congress legislators may also change camp


Assembly polls will be held next year in Tripura, which has been a Marxist bastion for 24 years.

Guwahati:  After acquiring all six lawmakers of the Trinamool Congress in Tripura, the BJP is now surveying the Congress. Sources in the BJP claim at least one Congress lawmaker is open to the idea of changing camp. The man is Ratan Lal Nath, a former leader of opposition, who has influence in 10 seats of the state.

Assembly polls will be held next year in Tripura, which has been a Marxist bastion for 24 years. The Left has 51 lawmakers in the 60-member assembly, the Congress 3 and the BJP has now opened its account in the state with 6 lawmakers.

BJP views Tripura as its test case in capturing a non-Congress state. The party's presence in the state is negligible - in the last assembly elections it got less than 2 per cent votes. The Congress and Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress had captured 45 per cent.

But the BJP has proved that it is no stranger to meeting steep challenges. In little more than one year, the party, which had zero footprint in the northeast, formed government in three states - Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam finance minister and the BJP's key strategist for north-east, is upbeat. "Tripura is the beginning, we will win Tripura in 2018, next we will target Kerala and West Bengal," he said.

Acquisition of key leaders of rival parties has been a strategy that had paid off handsomely for the BJP. The party had formed the government in neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh last year after a mass exodus of legislators from the People's Party of Arunachal. No less than 33 lawmakers from the party had joined the BJP. The BJP government in Manipur was also formed with the support of a Trinamool Congress legislator, who eventually defected. Even Mr Biswa Sarma was a veteran Congress leader who joined the BJP ahead of the assembly elections in Assam.

The men who changed camp from the Trinamool Congress to the BJP, say they felt an ideological compulsion to join the BJP. "We left the Congress to join the Trinamool Congress in 2016, so we can fight the Left. But now Mamata is non-allergic to the Left," Sudip Roy Burman, former Trinamool legislator, told NDTV, referring to party chief and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Congress's Mr Nath too, had a similar complaint. The party, he said, was not interested in fighting for change in Tripura. "This is because in Delhi, they have close links with CPM leaders. But the BJP has no links with the CPM in Delhi or at the state level," he added.

The man whom the BJP's resolution may affect the most, sounded unconcerned. "Since the birth of Left Front government, we have faced conspiracies and have been victorious," CPM's Chief Minister Manik Sarkar told NDTV. "The people of Tripura, along with people from other states, have been realising what the BJP has been doing and what they had promised," he added.

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