Exit Biplab Deb, enter another Manik as BJP spies red flags
Biplab Kumar Deb, the BJP leader credited with ending a quarter-century of Left rule in Tripura, has been abruptly replaced as chief minister, apparently amid infighting in the party and signs of the Opposition forces reactivating themselves ahead of next year’s Assembly polls.
The new chief minister will be Manik Saha, a dental surgeon who had succeeded Deb as the state BJP president in 2020, and was elected to the Rajya Sabha as the joint candidate of the ruling BJP-Indigenous Peoples Front of Tripura (IPFT) alliance.
The resignation of three BJP MLAs since October and their switch to the Opposition, a perceived rise in anti-incumbency, signs of a Left revival, the emergence of the Trinamul Congress and the growth of the regional TIPRA Motha (a regional outfit that swept the district council polls last year) “influenced” the party leadership into effecting the change of guard before it was too late, a source said.
The timing of Deb’s exit caught many by surprise as he had survived at least three attempts by his rivals in the BJP to dislodge him.
But a senior party leader said the central leadership had spoken to Deb on the need to “strengthen” the party and “work” towards retaining the state just as he had done in 2018 by ousting the CPM-led Manik Sarkar government. The leader appeared to be suggesting that the central leadership wanted Deb to remain a key figure in the state BJP.
Deb put in his papers on Saturday after returning to Agartala from Delhi where he had met Union home minister Amit Shah and BJP national president J.P. Nadda, a source said.
The BJP legislature party meeting was held at 5pm, where Deb himself proposed the name of his successor, which was “unanimously” accepted.
Soon after quitting, Deb said the party now wanted to bring “responsible workers” into the fold for the upcoming Assembly polls.
“Only if we win will the government stay. First we have to bring in the government.… The party will gain if workers like me are there,” the former chief minister said, adding that he was ready to serve the party and the state in any capacity.
Two BJP legislators had expressed unhappiness with Deb’s style of functioning and joined the Congress in February. Before that, another MLA had joined Trinamul.
In 2018, the BJP had won 36 of the 60 seats while its ally, the IPFT, won eight. The BJP-IPFT coalition now has 41 MLAs in a House of 57 following the resignation of three BJP members.
On Saturday, Trinamul’s Tripura unit hit out at the ruling BJP, asserting that its time was up and that changing the chief minister would not “eliminate” anti-incumbency against the “corrupt, incompetent and divisive” state government.
“Goodbye & good riddance to the CM who failed thousands of people in Tripura! Enough damage done. So much so that even the top bosses in the BJP are fed up with his INCOMPETENCE. Folks at the BJP seem very rattled by what the All India Trinamul Congress achieved in the state. CHANGE IS INEVITABLE,” it said.