The West Tripura parliamentary constituency, comprising 30 Assembly segments spread over four of the state’s eight districts has traditionally been a bastion of the Marxists in Lok Sabha elections since 1952. The four districts are West Tripura, Sipahijala, Gomati and South Tripura.
Of the 15 elections to the West Tripura seat held so far, the Marxists have won 10 times by comfortable margins except in 1984 when the “sympathy wave” generated in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination cut into the victory margin — less than 5,000 votes — of CPM candidate Ajay Biswas.
The tally also includes the highly controversial election of 1989 in which the ruling Congress-TUJS alliance allegedly rigged the polls, forcing CPM candidate and incumbent chief minister Manik Sarkar to withdraw from the contest on the day of election.
The Lok Sabha election of 1991 was boycotted by the CPM, fearing rigging.
For the five Lok Sabha polls between 1996 and 2009, including one byelection in February 2002, the CPM has been a confident winner.
“What gives the CPM the cutting edge is that of the 30 Assembly segments in West Tripura, seven each are reserved for Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes among whom the CPM has a very strong presence. CPM candidate Shankar Prasad Dutta will get an unassailable lead from these 14 Assembly segments. The Congress in Tripura now is totally demoralised, having neither an organisation nor a credible leadership. So the CPM remains the natural favourite in this seat,” conceded former Congress MLA and PCC spokesman Tapas De.
Of the 10 Assembly seats that the Congress had won in the February 2013 polls, seven came from the West Tripura Lok Sabha seat.
“Statistically, this is the decisive factor coupled with the fact that Congress workers and supporters never came out in full strength to work for the party in Lok Sabha election,” De said.
CPM office secretary Haripada Das said: “We will retain West Tripura by a record margin this time. In 2009, our two candidates in West and East Tripura seats had led in all 60 Assembly segments, winning both the seats by more than 2 lakh votes. There will be no exception this time also. The Congress is basically fighting for a second position with Trinamul Congress.”
The Congress has put up the first vice-chancellor of Tripura Central University Arunoday Saha who has been trying hard to mobilise workers. In the near total absence of a party organisation, he is finding it difficult to cope with Trinamul’s Ratan Chakraborty who is bolstered by thousands of deserters from the Congress. CPM contender and Citu leader Shankar Prasad Dutta is already miles ahead in the campaign.
The BJP contender and the party’s state unit president Sudheendra Dasgupta is unlikely to reach double digits in terms of vote percentage as the party has neither an organisational base nor the leadership to capitalise on the groundswell of sentiment in favour of the party and its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee addressed a meeting in Shatir Bazar on Tuesday which would boost Chakraborty’s chances of success. Mamata said Trinamul’s candidate from Bengal’s Bankura, Moon Moon Sen, was likely to campaign in Agartala on April 7.
Geographically, the West Tripura (general) parliamentary seat is smaller than its predominantly hilly counterpart, East Tripura (ST) constituency, but with an electorate of 12,43,398 it is much more populous. There are altogether 1,605 polling stations in the West Tripura Lok Sabha seat and adequate security arrangements are being made by the election department for foolproof security for polling slated to come off on April 7.