The scenes of a mob pulling down the statue of communist icon, Vladimir Lenin, while chanting “Bharat mata ki jai” in Tripura, are ominous. Ever since the defeat of the CPM-led Left Front, which had ruled the state for a quarter century, was announced on Saturday, Tripura has seen sporadic violence.
The CPM has alleged that its offices across the state and homes of workers are under attack from supporters of the BJP and its ally, the Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura. While a section of the BJP leadership has dismissed the reports of violence as CPM propaganda, many in the party have sought to justify vandalism as celebratory acts by people “oppressed” by the Left. Any violence or vandalism is a betrayal of the mandate.
The BJP campaign in Tripura was Chalo Paltai and the voters responded positively to the call for change. The BJP leadership, particularly Prime Minister Narendra Modi, defined change as better connectivity with the rest of India, more educational facilities, and most importantly, jobs. The party promised Seventh Pay Commission salaries for government employees and smartphones to the youth.
It was this message of better days ahead that seems to have attracted people, especially the youth, to vote out a government that had made gains in social indicators like literacy and ensured social peace in the past few years. The Manik Sarkar-led dispensation was seen to have exhausted itself and run out of ideas in office and trust was reposed in the BJP, though an untested entity in the state, to take the next steps, usher in the next generation of social, political and economic reforms.
The state BJP leadership should quickly step in and rein in its cadres so that “victory celebrations” do not go out of control. It doesn’t help that Governor Tathagata Roy, who ought to speak out against vandals’ challenge to the rule of law, has sought to justify the outrage. The urge to undo what the previous government has done, as Roy described the act of pulling down of the Lenin statue, is fraught with the possibility of triggering unrest which could imperil the spectacular gains the BJP has achieved in a short period.
It should keep in mind the experience of the Congress government of 1988-93, which, by focussing its energies on the CPM, failed to deliver on its promise to voters and lost several elections thereafter.