The ruling Left Front of Tripura released its Election Manifesto last week. Having been in power in the state continuously for the last 25 years, the document is brimming with information about a wide range of issues, from tackling separatist violence to creating employment through agricultural modernisation and industrialisation, from increasing literacy and reducing drop out rates to spread of healthcare services, from successful attempts to build harmony among various ethnic groups to paying attention to needs of underprivileged tribals, dalit communities and minorities.
The Left Front’s confidence in its work and its multi-sectional support stands in marked contrast to the BJP-IPFT alliance which is claiming to be the challenger to the Left Front. This alliance has yet to come out with its manifesto although the election campaign is in full swing and polling is to take place on 18 February.
The lack of manifesto while going into an election campaign is typical of the BJP’s electoral strategy. In Gujarat Assembly elections, it released a manifesto only a day before the first phase of polling on 9 December 2017. In many other states they have either not released manifestoes or done so as a meaningless ritual. This is nothing but the arrogance of the Amit Shah vision of elections in which the electoral battle is all about hoodwinking people through half-truths, wild promises and dazzle of money power, backed by a dirty tricks department that makes backroom deals, gives bribes and strikes up opportunist alliances.
In Tripura specifically, the BJP is facing a more complex problem in bringing out a manifesto. It is aligned with an outfit (IPFT) that has till recently been fighting for a separate tribal state. For electoral purposes this presents an awkward problem because the BJP has, publicly at least, not supported this demand.
So what do you say to the people of Tripura? If you espouse the IPFT cause then you lose support from all the people who believe in a united Tripura and harmony between various ethnic groups. That would be a majority of the Tripura’s voters. If you don’t declare support for a separate Tripraland, then why have an alliance with IPFT and what do you approach the tribals with? BJP’s local unit, made up of former Congress people, and guided by the Congress turncoat Himanta Biswa Sarma, minister in neighbouring Assam, is trying to disentangle itself from this mess. Hence, not having a manifesto for now is their best option. That way they can play all sides and hope to fool everybody.
The Left Front’s manifesto completely demolishes the BJP-IPFT campaign spearheaded by such heavyweights like party president Amit Shah and home minister Rajnath Singh, and presumably to be joined by Narendra Modi himself shortly.
It presents a trenchant critique of the Modi govt.’s 4-year rule with rising unemployment, closures and retrenchments, skyrocketing prices, neglect of farmers’ burning problems, land acquisition, privatisation of public sector, etc. It also lambasts the Modi govt. for the havoc caused by demonetisation and GST. “The Government at the centre is on collision course with the interests of common people…” the Manifesto says.
It strongly criticises the BJP govt. for fanning the flames of religious fanaticism and giving the “war-cry of turning India into a religious state”. The violence unleashed by so called ‘gau-rakshaks’ especially against dalits is highlighted, as also attacks on minorities.
It lists how the Modi govt. is steadily eroding democracy in the country by undermining institutions like the Parliament, the judiciary etc. and throwing all democratic norms to the winds.
After this short and pithy critique, the Manifesto gives details of how Tripura’s Left Front is “traversing a totally different and alternative path in favour of the common people”.
Words and deeds go hand in hand here
Some of the key achievements of the Left Front described in the Manifesto are summarised below:
- Per capita income increased to Rs.80,027 in 2015-16 from Rs.11,012 in 1998.
- Tripura has highest literacy rate of 97.22% in India up from 73.20% in 1998. Women’s literacy is also highest at 96.89%. Drop-out rate in schools dipped to 4% in 2017 from 51% in 1998.
- Several health indicators like infant mortality, life expectancy etc. of Tripura are better than Indian average.
- Since 1998: 53% increase in paddy production, 500% in vegetable production, 56% in fruit production, 400% in fish production, 112% in milk, 500% in meat, over 100% in eggs.
- Irrigation brought to 99% of potentially irrigable land.
- Forest cover increased by 86%, bamboo cover increased by nearly 800%.
- Electricity production doubled
- Whole population covered by PDS system. Rice at Rs 2 per kg. Rs.65 subsidy per ration card for oil and pulses.
- Over 4 lakh people getting pensions.
- No. of industries increased from 703 in 1998 to 4870 in 2017.
- 1.27 lakh tribal families given land rights for 1.76 lakh hectares land.
- 2.12 lakh landless families given 2.32 lakh acres land.
- 3.49 lakh homes built
The Manifesto also stresses the singular achievement in Tripura of controlling violent separatism and bringing harmony and peace in the state.
It is on this basis that the Left Front is appealing for a renewed mandate to carry forward its people oriented policies which present an alternative to the disastrous policies of the BJP run central govt. and several state govt.