The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a fight on its hands in Tripura with the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) making every effort to gain a foothold there ahead of the 2023 assembly elections. Speaking exclusively to News18, state deputy chief minister Jishnu Dev Varma, though, termed the TMC an “Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram party” (where leaders constantly change allegiance), and alleged that Trinamool, the Left and Congress had “ganged up” under a secret understanding to defeat the BJP. However, he said that they will never succeed and the BJP will come to power with a thumping majority once again in Tripura. Edited excerpts:
Why do you think the TMC is not a challenge for the BJP in Tripura?
The TMC is a party with no ideology. They don’t have any roots in Tripura. They have not gone to the people at all in Tripura. People don’t know them here. They are coming from Bengal and making a lot of noise to get some attention but the people of Tripura are not fools. They know it’s only the BJP that can bring development in the state and no one else. Already, we have done a lot of development work in Tripura and people don’t want to see any kind of hurdle from anyone before the progress of our state. It’s a very noisy party. They are trying to storm into Tripura, which the people are not liking here.
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What do you think has been the TMC’s political strategy to make its presence felt in the state to counter the BJP in the coming assembly polls?
They are trying to storm Tripura forcibly. It is not that easy to mislead the people in my state. Our people worked very hard for the welfare of Tripura. We have reached out to the people in every nook and corner of the state and never delayed when it comes to providing aid or assistance. The BJP is a disciplined party and a party with a strong ideology. On the other side, there is a party called TMC, which has no ideology and no roadmap for the people of Bengal. Now my question is what are they going to offer the people of Tripura when they don’t have any roadmap for their own state (West Bengal) and its people?
Other BJP leaders in Tripura say they smell a bigger political conspiracy of the TMC, Congress and CPI (M) to oust the BJP government here. What is your take on this?
It is true that they all ganged up on the BJP and the reason behind this is they can’t do anything alone because they are not strong enough to take on the BJP in Tripura. They don’t have the strength on their own. People have rejected the CPI (M) and Congress and, therefore, they have brought the TMC here to create trouble to serve their political interests. In the upcoming municipal elections (on November 25), you will find the CPI (M) has not fielded candidates in most of the seats where the TMC is in the contest. The same goes with the Congress also. They have an understanding over seat adjustment. They are desperately trying to remove the BJP so that all three of them can share the booty. But they are not going to succeed in their game plan because the people here are with us. We are there in every booth to help the people. The TMC, Congress and CPI (M) leaders are daydreaming about getting a strong presence in Tripura.
Like some other BJP associates have suggested, do you think TMC leaders are outsiders in Tripura because the same allegation was levelled by Mamata Banerjee when your party leaders visited West Bengal during the assembly polls this year?
They termed our Prime Minister Narendra Modi and our home minister Amit Shah outsiders. It was very unfortunate. The TMC should decide if its leaders are outsiders here or not.
What do you have to say on TMC leader Saayoni Ghosh’s controversial comments and ‘Khela Hobe’ (game is on) slogan during a public meeting of chief minister Biplab Deb on November 21?
I condemn her act and it was done intentionally to get some publicity. I personally believe that such an act creates hurdles before our goal to bring Tripura on the list of fast-developing states in the country. It is alarming that these people are creating trouble in Tripura where residents are peace-loving. They are trying to bring the CPI (M) culture of violence here. Elections were more or less peaceful in Tripura, but after 2003 the CPI (M) brought the culture of violence. The TMC is following the same path in Bengal and now it is trying to pursue the violence culture here in Tripura. We will not allow them and we will continue to resist them. They simply cannot storm Tripura without any issue with the help of a few hired people (hinting at poll strategist Prashant Kishor’s organisation I-PAC).
What will be the future strategy of the BJP in Tripura to counter the TMC considering the upcoming municipal polls and then the assembly elections in 2023?
We are working for the people and we will continue to do so. We are working for everyone and we don’t divide people based on their caste and religion. No one can stop us from standing beside the people of Tripura. I am happy to share that we are on a development track. We believe that the best politics is politics of development. This is our mantra for the welfare of the people of Tripura. At the same time, we are strengthening our party, from ‘Panna Pramukhs’ (person in charge of a page of the voters’ list) to below the booth committees. We have district and block committees. We have an election team in place and this is what is bothering the TMC because it failed to penetrate deep into the booth level. TMC is an Aaya Ram Gaya Ram party and we are not bothered about it. They don’t have any base in Tripura. They are trying to stir a hornet’s nest.
Some of your leaders have suggested that the TMC is playing the religious card in Tripura. Do you agree?
In West Bengal, they are doing the same thing. It is not something new for them. This is one of the angles they always work at. But they will not be able to divide the people here because the residents here are largely peace-loving. We had an insurgency problem a long time back but now such issues are not there. The Hindu-Muslim issue was also not there in the history of Tripura. We have to protect that aspect of Tripura’s history.
Is the BJP concerned over Pradyot Manikya’s newly launched political party Tipraha Indigenous Progressive Regional Alliance (TIPRA) Motha, which won 18 seats in the tribal areas’ district council polls (which covers nearly 20 assembly seats out of the total 60) in April this year?
It is true that he has done well in the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council (TTAADC) election. We have to watch how long it will sustain. Politics is not all about one election after another. Politics is about sustainability as well. Let’s see what happens in the future but we are certain that our party is going to win the civic as well the assembly polls in Tripura in 2023.
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Two journalists were recently arrested by the Tripura police. What do you have to say about this?
The journalists claimed that they went to Gomti district to cover an incident of violence. They said that they were doing their job and so did the police. The police acted based on their wisdom and they must protect the harmony of Tripura at any cost. I think the police must act on sensitive issues.
Tripura is a border state. Do you see the possibility of any interference from elements from the other side of the border during the elections?
Anything can happen, and the police must be extra careful. They must gather intelligence and they must intensify their vigil to prevent any kind of disturbances.
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