Agartala, Feb. 28: The Left Front stormed back to power in Tripura today for the fifth consecutive term since 1993, retaining its hold on the last red bastion of the country by a massive mandate.
The Left increased its tally of seats from 49 to 50 (CPM 49, CPI 1) in the 60-member Assembly and percentage of votes marginally, inflicting a massive drubbing to the Congress-INPT combine. While the Congress was able to hold on to its tally of 10 seats, the INPT failed to open its account. The regional party’s president and erstwhile TNV militant leader Bijay Kumar Hrangkhawal suffered an ignominious defeat against Left Front’s Lalit Debbarma, a political greenhorn from Ambassa (ST) seat in Dhalai district by 1,037 votes.
The biggest setback for Congress was the defeat of its vice-president Surajit Dutta from Ramnagar seat in Agartala by 65 votes.
Dutta, who had won the seat consecutively five times since 1988, lost it despite the absence of Trinamul from the electoral arena which stemmed the division of anti-Left votes.
The CPI won the Santirbazar (ST) seat in South Tripura district where its candidate Manindra Reang defeated Gouri Shankar Reang of the Congress by 3,756 votes.
Counting commenced in 17 locations in the state from 8am. After the first round, Ratanlal Nath, leader of the Opposition and Congress candidate from Mohanpur in West Tripura district, first trailed and then appeared to have lost by more than 300 votes. But on two successive recounting upon Nath’s demand, he won by 714 votes.
Despite the statewide reverses, the Congress had the consolation of winning three of the four seats in Agartala town under West Tripura district.
While the party’s domination of the state capital was denied by Dutta’s narrow defeat, PCC president Sudip Roy Barman drubbed CPM’s Shankar Prasad Dutta rather comfortably by 2,741 votes. The Congress got six of its 10 seats from the district.
It opened its account in Gomati district (South Tripura before truncation) after 15 years when Pranjit Singha won the RK Pur seat by 837 votes, defeating RSP leader and minister for science and technology Jaygobinda Debroy.
The differences of opinion in the Congress over alliance with the INPT seemed justified as the regional party drew a blank while the Congress’s indigenous leader Dibachandra Hrangkhawal defeated veteran CPM leader and ADC’s executive member Gajendra Tripura by 1,372 votes from Karamcherra (ST). This is the only seat won by the Congress among six in Dhalai district.
In neighbouring Unakoti district too, the Congress could win only one of the four seats when veteran leader Birajit Sinha retained Kailasahar by a margin of 485 votes.
In North Tripura, too, the Left Front made a near clean sweep by retaining six of the seven seats. It lost Dharmangar town seat when sitting Congress MLA Biswabandhu Sen defeated his CPM rival Amitava Dutta by 1,844 votes.
In three of the state’s eight districts — South Tripura, Sipahijala and Khowai — the Congress failed to win a single seat.
Chief minister Manik Sarkar who entered the fray from his pocket-borough, Dhanpur, won against Congress’s Mohd Shah Alam by 6,017 votes, more than doubling the margin of 2,918 votes in 2008.
While Debroy of RSP lost RK Pur, the remaining 10 ministers in the Left Front cabinet retained their seats comfortably though veteran leader and minister for higher education and information Anil Sarkar won by a considerably reduced margin of 2,132 votes.
“My margin of victory was more than 7,000 in 2008. This has come down mainly because of delimitation, which resulted in 15,000 voters from my Pratapgarh constituency being shifted to the newly created Sujyamoni Nagar constituency. About 70 per cent of the shifted voters were my supporters, so naturally my margin has gone down,” Sarkar said. He attributed the Left Front’s good showing to the committed support of voters belonging to Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes. “We won 19 of the 20 ST seats and nine of the 10 SC seats. Voters belonging to both the communities comprise our core strength,” he said.
CPM secretary Bijan Dhar and party spokesman Gautam Das congratulated the people for the “massive mandate” they have given the Left Front and alleged that the Congress’s efforts at misleading the people had boomeranged on the party.
PCC president Sudip Roy Barman expressed “shock and dismay” over the poll outcome.
“I have to accept the verdict of the people but this is far below my expectations; I have tried my best and worked very hard to do better but its seems we have failed to convince the people,” he said.