ABSTRACT

By retaining two parliamentary seats in the state in the 2014 national election, the left radicals in Tripura have proved once again that effective governance is a key to electoral success. Even in the context of a definite wave for the BJP in the entire country, the left support base remains as solid as in the past; the left juggernaut was unstoppable. This was not a mean achievement in the context of the failure of the left radicals to even sustain their support base in both Kerala and West Bengal, the left citadels. Despite lack of adequate support from the party high command, the CPI (M) candidates comfortably won both the seats in the state. A surface reading of the electoral victory suggests how effective the incumbent government was in utilizing the state machinery for common wellbeing regardless of class, caste or ethnicity. It was possible for the local state to fulfil its ideological mission because of the support that it had received from the local party unit which, by being most vigilant, never allowed the government to divert its way. Unlike its West Bengal counterpart, the CPI (M) party machinery remained most effective in pursuing the welfare schemes for the people at large since it was never allowed to be appropriated by the vested interests for partisan goals. The success of the left radicals in 2014 was thus attributed to a symbiotic network between the party and government which was missing in both Kerala and West Bengal. The aim of this chapter is to narrate the growth and gradual consolidation of left radicalism in this tiny north-eastern state of Tripura. A former princely state, Tripura is also unique in terms of its demography comprising both the indigenous population and the erstwhile refugees from former East Pakistan. This was a source of tension in the state which was manifested often in violent skirmishes between the Bengali settlers and the sons of the soil. The left radicals, especially those with their allegiance initially to the CPI and later CPI (M) created circumstances in which both these groups agreed to work together for everybody’s betterment. In other words, effective social engineering led to a situation in which the idea of the common good prevailed over other sectarian considerations. It is not surprising that in the consolidation of left radicalism, the role of the Bengali settlers was as critical as that of their indigenous counterparts. Given the unflinching popularity of the parliamentary left in Tripura in the midst of its debacle elsewhere in India, one is encouraged to pursue an argument

defending the viability of Marxism-Leninism as an ideology. Not only has the electoral victory in Tripura firmly established the significance of left radicalism in sustaining the support base, it also proves beyond doubt that it has not been exhausted yet as an ideological alternative even in the midst of its collapse elsewhere. Besides defending the ideological validity of left radicalism, the chapter is an analytical elaboration of the processes leading to its consolidation since the state was founded in 1972. The comfortable victory of the left in the 2014 national poll also confirms that mere ideological rhetoric was not enough to garner votes; what seemed to have mattered most in voters’ choice was the government’s success in delivering the basic services for human existence to the people at large.