Gaining People’s Trust

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 07 Mar 2018 11:04:31

By Barun
Das Gupta

THE fall of the CPI-M citadel of Tripura is the most remarkable outcome of the results of the three States that went to Assembly polls last month. Everyone including the CPI-M knew that the electoral battle in Tripura this time will be fiercely fought, but most expected the CPI-M to return to power with a reduced majority. The outcome has confounded everyone. The CPI-M has suffered a complete rout after 25 years of uninterrupted rule. The BJP-IPFT alliance has won 43 seats while the CPI-M has been reduced to just 16 seats in a house of 60.

To a large extent, this humiliating defeat is due to the CPI-M’s total lack of awareness about the extent of its alienation from the people. True, the CPI-M was no match for the BJP resource-wise. The fact is that the CPI-M became complacent and took people for granted. The BJP took full advantage of the situation. RSS workers started arriving from other States at least a year before the polls and they fanned out across the State, working silently for the BJP victory. The RSS specially targeted the tribal people, who roughly constitute one-third of the population. RSS workers mixed freely with the local people, felt their pulse and gauged their feelings about the ruling party to prepare the BJP’s poll strategy. The CPI-M either failed to take notice of this or felt helpless to meet the challenge.
The CPI-M depended greatly on the image of Manik Sarkar, the soft-spoken, unassuming and incorruptible Chief Minister, who lived a Spartan life. He had been the helmsman for the last 20 years and it was hoped that this time, too, he would be able to turn the tide. But that was not to be. The extent of people’s anger against the CPI-M can be understood from the fact that Manik Sarkar was heckled, booed and abused inside the counting booth.

He remained calm throughout and when some of his party workers became excited, he calmed them down. Here, agents of Congress and TMC were hounded out of the counting room by the BJP workers, who claimed the former were “CPI-M workers in disguise.” In fact, counting was held up after Sarkar was found to be leading. It was only when the top party leaders took up the matter with the Election Commission in Delhi that counting could resume. Reports are coming that CPI-M offices in the districts are being attacked. A long ordeal faces the party in Tripura.
Both in Tripura and in Nagaland, the Congress failed to open account. In both States it drew a blank. In Nagaland, the BJP won 12 seats while its ally, the newly floated Nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (NDPP) won 17, totalling 29 in a house of 60. But the Naga People’s Front (NPF), fighting alone, drew level with its rivals by winning 29 seats. The BJP was in alliance with the NPF for long. But
on the eve of the February Assembly polls, it broke with the NPF and split the party by weaning away its former chairman and three times Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio, who
floated his own outfit, the NDPP, with BJP support.

The main poll issue in Nagaland this time was a permanent solution of the seven-decade-old ‘Naga political problem’. In August, 2015, the Prime Minister arrived at a ‘framework agreement’ with NSCN(IM), the major rebel outfit. But the provisions of the agreement have been under the wraps and not made public till now. The Nagas no longer demand secession from India and have an independent Naga State.

They have reconciled themselves to a position within the Indian Union. What they want now is the creation of ‘Nagalim’ or the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. But these States are determined not to cede a square centimetre of their territory to the proposed Nagalim. It remains to be seen whether the Centre can bring out the proverbial rabbit from its hat and reconcile the two mutually exclusive positions.
In Meghalaya it was the repetition of the old Arunachal, Manipur and Goa story. The Congress emerged as the largest single party, winning 21 seats. The second largest was the National People’s Party (19 seats) headed by Conrad Sangma, son of the late Lok Sabha Speaker Purno Sangma. The Congress hoped to rope in some smaller parties to knock together a working majority. The party sent Kamal Nath, Ahmed Patel and C.P. Joshi to Shillong for wooing the smaller parties but they were outmanoeuvred by the BJP with its immense resources.

For many years, a major grievance of Congress workers in the North-Eastern States has been that they found it very difficult to have an audience with either Sonia Gandhi or Rahul Gandhi. They say that even after waiting for days and weeks in Delhi they had to return disappointed. For this they hold the ‘courtiers’ surrounding the two top leaders entirely responsible. They say that Arunachal and Manipur could still have been in the Congress fold if the grievances of the party workers were heard and acted upon by the High Command in time. The Congress cannot cry over spilt milk. It has to raise itself literally by its bootstrap in the North-East. (IPA)