Agartala, Feb. 25: Mamata Banerjee today pitched for paribartan (change) in Tripura, which has voted the Left to power at a stretch since 1998.
Addressing a 30,000-strong crowd in Agartala, the Bengal chief minister urged the supporters to start the process of change by voting Trinamul in the two Lok Sabha seats and wrapping it up in the Assembly elections in 2018.
“I have come here to tell you that we will contest both seats,” Mamata said today at Swami Vivekananda Maidan.
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had on Saturday addressed a rally at the same venue where the turnout ranged between 5,000 and 10,000.
Mamata also referred to the bonding between the Tripura royal family and Rabindranath Tagore, adding: “I have decided to come to Tripura more often. I will not rest till I remove the CPM government from here.”
The 40-minute speech drew loud applause from the crowd.
Achieving the target would be easier said than done, said some Trinamul insiders.
In the 2009 Lok Sabha polls, Trinamul got 0.5 per cent and 0.51 per cent votes in the two seats — Tripura West and Tripura East (reserved for tribals), which the CPM has retained for five consecutive elections. In the last Assembly polls in 2013, the Left won 50 of the 60 seats. Trinamul did not contest.
The position of BJP in Tripura is better as its vote share in 2009 polls were 2.27 per cent and 4.14 per cent in Tripura West and Tripura East respectively.
“This time, we are confident of improving our performance, but winning any one of them is an impossible task,” said a Trinamul leader, while admitting that the factors that helped Mamata in ending the Left rule were largely absent in Tripura.
Asked about Trinamul’s chances in Tripura, a party leader said: “The ground situation in Tripura is different from that in Bengal…. Here there are no rallying points like Nandigram and Singur.”
The ruling Left has successfully marketed the Manik Sarkar model of development, besides focusing on how the state has achieved 96 per cent literacy rate.
“Isn’t it an achievement?” asked Gautam Das, CPM’s Tripura state committee member.
According to him, the way self-governance rights have been given to the Tribals — comprising 31.8 per cent of the population — the Front has tried to reach out to the poorest of the poor.
Mamata, however, was virulent in her attack on Sarkar — who has been often praised by the Centre for speedy implementation of various central schemes -- without naming him.
“He goes to Bengal very often…. He must concentrate on his own state…. One cannot even talk over the telephone, the line gets disconnected. I was looking down from the aircraft and could not see any pucca road. The entire area looked so dry,” said Mamata.
Infrastructure — especially connectivity — is indeed a problem in Tripura and Sarkar has been trying to reduce its impact by offering other sops. Recently, he announced that the government would arrange land within 48 hours for investors willing to set up industries in the state.
The Tripura government is banking on a transit treaty with Bangladesh and permission for using the Chittagong port, which may significantly help Tripura’s linkages with the market.