How Congress lost Tripura and Nagaland

New Delhi: Relegated to the political margins in Tripura and Nagaland for decades, the Congress’s failure to open its account completed the party’s decimation in the two north-eastern states.
Infighting, lack of resources, a non-visible central leadership, a lacklustre campaign and the perceived tacit understanding with the Left appeared to have cost the Congress dear in Tripura in the elections.
In Tripura, the Congress’ vote base shifted to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The fall is stunning, for it had a vote share of 36.53 % in 2013 when it contested 48 seats and won 10.
The BJP’s sustained campaign that the Congress was deliberately lying low in Tripura to help the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI (M), consolidated the anti-Left votes in its favor. The Congress was not considered an alternative or a strong opposition to the CPI(M), and that led to big gains for the BJP.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi addressed just one election meeting in Tripura on the last day of the campaign on February 16. Polling was held two days later.
State Congress leaders had complained about the lack of interest on the part of the general secretary in charge of North East, CP Joshi, in the party affairs in Tripura.
However, Tripura Congress chief Birajit Sinha attributed the BJP’s victory to the fact that it is in power at the Center as well.
“We don’t have a government at the Centre and that is why the people who were against the CPM voted for the BJP,” he said.
Sinha claimed that this was not the first time that the Congress faced such a situation in Tripura, recalling that the party lost badly in 1977 but regained power in 1988. Samir Ranjan Barman was the last Congress chief minister of Tripura; he was at the helm until March 1993.
Struggle in Nagaland
In Nagaland, the Congress was never in the game. It not only struggled to find candidates, but also failed to provide adequate resources to fight the elections.
A fund crunch also forced the Congress to withdraw five candidates, leaving 18 in the fray. In 2013, the party had won eight seats out of the 56 it contested and secured a vote share of 24.89%.
State Congress chief Kewe Khape Therie squarely blamed Joshi for the party’s dismal performance. “Joshi has systematically destroyed the Congress not only in Nagaland but in the entire North-East. For the past more than two years, he did not visit the state. He even prevented Rahul Gandhi from campaigning.”Joshi declined to comment.
“We were not given any funds or any other logistic support. I think Congress has not only given up on Nagaland but the entire North-East. When no Congress leader came for campaigning and the party showed no interest in Nagaland, the intent was clear,” he said.
Therie, however, said the money factor played a key role in the Nagaland elections. “Money is the only consideration this time. No other issue.”
For its part, the Congress focused on Meghalaya, but there too, it is struggling, and will need the support of regional players and independents to retain power.

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