- Manik Sarkar says that the BJP victory had caught him off guard
- Will review this defeat... Were not prepared for such a result, he said
- The defeat ended the 25-year rule of the Left in Tripura
"We will review this defeat... We were not prepared for such a result," Mr Sarkar, 69, told NDTV in an exclusive interview, his first after the CPM's stunning defeat in the assembly elections at the hands of the BJP and its alliance partner Indigenous People's Front of Tripura, or IPFT.
The defeat ended the 25-year rule of the Left in the northeastern state seen as an important citadel of the Left in the country. Kerala is the only state now governed by Left parties.
The BJP-led alliance has won 43 of Tripura's 60 seats.
The BJP, which had launched a shrill campaign to seek "poriborton" (change), got 35 seats and a 43 per cent vote share. It had won no seat in 2013.
The CPM's vote share was just a fraction less than the BJP, 42.3 per cent, but the Left ended up with only 16 seats, down by 35 seats.
Mr Sarkar, reputed as India's poorest chief minister, was single-handedly leading his party's campaign that at times appeared to pale in front of the BJP's aggressive campaign led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others.
As the results came in, PM Modi had described the Tripura election as "epoch-making". "The historic victory in Tripura is as much an ideological one. It is a win for democracy over brute force and intimidation," he tweeted.
Later back home, Mr Sarkar told NDTV that the party would sit down to analyse the results.
"This is a completely unexpected result. But you see, just results were published yesterday night. So now we are collecting all information from different corners of the state," he said, adding that it would not be correct to draw a conclusion before analysing the statistics. "So we shall have to wait," he said.
The CPM had yesterday accused the BJP of "massive deployment of money and other resources to influence the elections".
Analysis of booth-level results would indicate how the people had voted in the elections, Mr Sarkar said, responding to initial reports that some communities such as the backward classes and tribals may have gone with the BJP this time.
It is too early to draw this conclusion in a simplistic manner, he said, underlining that there were people from other communities as well in seats where communities such as tribals had a significant presence.