Assembly bypolls in Tripura to witness direct contest between BJP and CPI-M

Agartala, August 4 (IANS): For the first time in over five years, a direct contest will be seen between the ruling BJP and the opposition CPI-M-led Left Front in Tuesday’s bypolls to two Assembly seats in Tripura -- Boxanagar and Dhanpur.

The Congress and the Tipra Motha Party (TMP), the other two main opposition parties in the state, have decided not to field candidates in the two Assembly seats to prevent division of vote share of the opposition parties.

However, the leaders of the TMP headed by Pradyot Bikram Manikya Deb Barman have declared not to support the BJP or the CPI-M in the crucial by-elections, leaving the choice to the voters and party workers.

State Congress President Asish Kumar Saha, Congress MLAs Sudip Roy Barman and other party leaders have campaigned for the CPI-M candidates in Boxanagar and Dhanpur.

"To defeat the BJP and to ensure victory for the INDIA alliance, we have campaigned in both the Assembly segments," Saha told IANS. 

After the formation of the opposition alliance -- Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) -- Tuesday’s by-elections will be its first electoral battle.

Political pundits said that the bypolls are a litmus test for the ruling BJP, as the chances of division of opposition votes are minimal.  

Top BJP leaders, including Chief Minister Manik Saha, former Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb, Union minister Pratima Bhowmik, state BJP President Rajib Bhattacherjee and other senior leaders took part in hectic campaigning in the two constituencies, making the bypolls a 'prestige fight'.

On the other hand, former Tripura Chief Minister and CPI-M politburo member Manik Sarkar and the party’s state Secretary Jitendra Choudhury also campaigned for the party candidates extensively.  

The CPI-M has nominated Mizan Hossain in Boxanagar and Kaushik Chanda in Dhanpur, while the ruling BJP has fielded Taffajal Hossain in Boxanagar and Bindu Debnath in Dhanpur.

CPI-M's Mizan Hossain and BJP's Bindu Debnath are contesting elections for the first time, while Kaushik Chanda and Taffajal Hossain had contested the Assembly polls  held in February this year.

Leader of opposition and senior TMP leader Animesh Debbarma had said earlier that in the Tuesday's by-elections, they want to prevent the opposition vote division.

Debbarma said that in the February Assembly polls, the BJP secured 40 per cent votes but it retained power, while the opposition parties got 60 per cent votes.

In February, the Left parties and the Congress had contested the elections together with a seat-sharing formula, while the TMP went solo.

The by-election in the Dhanpur Assembly seat was necessitated after Union minister Pratima Bhoumik resigned from the Assembly, days after her election from the seat as a BJP nominee.

The Muslim-dominated Boxanagar Assembly seat fell vacant after the death of sitting CPI-M MLA Samsul Haque, who died on July 19 after a cardiac attack.

In all, 93,495 voters, including 45, 222 female electorate, are eligible to cast their votes to decide the electoral fortune of eight candidates, four each in two seats.