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Mainstream, VOL LI, No 8, February 9, 2013

The Road Not Taken By Tripura’s Left

Friday 15 February 2013, by Basubrata Roy

The tiny North-Eastern hilly State of Tripura is gearing up for the Assembly poll, slated to the held on February 14, 2013. The Left citadel of the region has hardly seen any anti-incumbency factor till now when the regime is on a sticky wicket with its employees getting a raw deal because of the denial of a new Pay Commission.

Within no time the State Government school-teachers and the employees got united, cutting across political affiliations of the unions, to come under the banner of the “Jautha Mancha” (Joint Platform) with twentyseven unions, giving a shot in the arm to those determined to struggle and fight for justice.

The new pay band was denied only in Tripura according to the wishes of the Left regime of the State. The employees reason that when the State has no industry and everything is financed by the Centre, what could have been the harm to accept the Central proposal? Do the Left thrive only in poverty?

The Assembly poll this time is crucial for the survival of the Left as well as retreat for the Right, since the Congress had much earlier promised the Central pay band to the State Government teachers and employees if it returned to power. The Left union offices across the State capital’s business centre Hari Ganga Basak Road had witnessed thousands of ‘Jautha Mancha’ activists in two rows holding sky-blue coloured flags and bringing the capital city’s traffic to a grinding halt.

The citizens’ concerns are clear. The price does not vary for the State or the Central Government employees at the shops. So the fight for justice is actually the fight for Right to Equality. The schoolteachers and employees had come in thousands, from both North as well as South Tripura, sacrificing their hard-earned leaves to join rallies a number of times. Last October the ‘Jautha Mancha’ had successfully organised a civil disobedience movement for the trial of their strength, determination and discipline.

Anti-incumbency, though not being a factor in Tripura, has a proven track record to change its course over the government-versus-employees tussle. Something similar happened first in 1975 at the time of the Congress-ruled regime, when the teachers and employees’ ire had overthrown the government to establish their rights. The factor worked again in 1988 when on the pay band issue the Left regime was shown the door by the employees to bring the Congress back to power.

The ‘Jautha Mancha’s strength lies in the bulky force of the government staff. In a State with a population of thirtysix lakhs, around one-and-a-half lakh people are engaged in the State Government service. Now that the government policy follows a strict taxation structure which allows to save or to invest at the stock market, the open market economic policy would help to pave the way from the State treasury to the Mumbai stock exchange a huge bulk of money to mark a possible hat-trick by the State Government teachers and employees.

What is surprising is that the Left in Tripura hasn’t learned any lesson from the 1988 debacle. The regime still believes that its vote-bank is in the villages and hills. Unlike West Bengal where the last Left Finance Minister Ashim Dasgupta had been an economist himself and under whom the State employees got a good deal, here in Tripura the Number Two in the Cabinet, Badal Chowdhury, though being the Finance Minister, is a high-school dropout; and the Chief Minister’s pedigree has hardly been tested in between the long years.

Banking on the law and order scene is not likely to give any dividend to the Left. The record of heinous crimes and atrocities against women has exceeded all-time limit. Alie-nation has gripped the society, cutting across all barriers, so deep that it got manifested in large scale import of Fency deal which is actually a type of cough syrup that was banned in the State long back; however it is being allowed to be imported by the license holders in the wholesale market by a different interpretation of the law. Corex is another popular drug among the addicts apart from various kinds of tablets.

Besides these, the State administration had all along remained deaf to the loot of the poor man’s money in villages as well as cities by different money marketing agencies illegally in the name of chit-funds.

The Assembly poll in the State is going to be a tough contest this time in both the hills and plains. While the Tripura Upajati Gana Mukti Parisad is poised to retain the hill seats they hold already, their rival Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT) too has consolidated its position more than in earlier times. Getting eleven seats to contest from its strategic partner, the Congress, the INPT is already active in the hills.

The Left in all certainty is going to face defeat in at least seventeen Assembly constituencies apart from the ten seats they held while in Opposition. The sensitive constituencies are Bishalgarh, Baxanagar, Barjala, Khairpur, Mandai Bazar, Takarjala, Charilam, Kalyanpur-Promod-nagar, Teliamura, Krishnapur, Radhakishore-pur, Matabari, Belonia, Chamanu, Jubarajnagar, Kanchanpur and Bagbasha. In the last Assembly poll of 2008 the Congress got 36.38 per cent votes and the INPT 6.21 per cent to let the Left come to power with only 51 per cent vote. Though finding the Opposition on a sticky wicket, the ruling Left could win with only eight per cent difference in the last Assembly poll.

What lies in store for the ruling party with around fifty thousand more pensioners’ unsettled issues is clear. They should see the writing on the wall. Though in a last-moment bid to consolidate its position the Left in its poll manifesto, published on January 17, has assured to take the initiative to give the Central pay band and adopt measures to prevent the loot by the chit-funds, how much of these promises would be effective depends on their opponents’ performance in the field.

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