By Prakash Karat
THE Left Front in Tripura held a central rally in Agartala on January 20 to launch its election campaign. The state assembly elections are on February 14. I participated in this rally which saw one lakh people attending, a huge number, considering that the total population of the state is only 37 lakhs.
Tripura is in the north-eastern part of the country. It is surrounded on three sides by Bangladesh. It was here in the nineteen forties that the Communist party worked among the tribal people and organised them to fight against the Maharaja and his feudal rule. Nripen Chakraborty, Dasarath Deb and Biren Datta were the pioneers of the Communist movement. The first two later served as the chief ministers of the state.
Tripura has had a Left Front government since 1978. In the first two terms of the Left Front government, there were two major achievements: the implementation of land reforms and the setting up of the Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council under the sixth schedule of the constitution. There was a break only in 1988-93 when there was a Congress regime. The Congress came to power through a rigged election with the help of the central government headed by Rajiv Gandhi. This was one of the most sordid episodes in Indian politics.The five year period saw semi-fascist terror unleashed against the CPI(M) and hundreds of the Party members and supporters were killed. It was after an arduous struggle that the Congress was isolated and the Left Front regained office in March 1993.
Since then, in the three subsequent elections in 1998, 2003 and 2008, the Left Front won with a two-thirds majority. All in all, the Left Front has been in government for six terms since 1978, except for the one term in 1988-93.
The history of the Left Front government in the last two decades is a remarkable and inspiring one. In the first decade, in the nineties, the state was still affected by the violent insurgency by armed extremist tribal groups. Their attacks had begun in the early eighties. Sheltering in camps across the border in Bangladesh, these groups wreaked havoc in the tribal and hill areas. They were financed and equipped by imperialist agencies and the ISI of Pakistan. They demanded an independent Tripura. Thousands were killed in the three decades of terrorist violence and hundreds of CPI (M) tribal cadres and supporters laid down their lives defending the unity of the people and the country.
The Left Front governments could tackle this armed insurgency by adopting a three pronged approach. First, the political one, of preserving the unity of the tribal and Bengali communities which was sought to be disrupted. Second, by raising and equipping a state armed police (Tripura State Rifles) which could effectively counter the armed gangs. Third, the government stepped up its development and welfare activities once the violence was curbed in the tribal areas. The Tripura Tribal Autonomous District Council was revitalised for this purpose.
Today Tripura is a peaceful state and there is harmony and unity between the majority Bengalis and the minority tribal people. Tripura stands out in the entire north-east for achieving this, whereas there is ethnic and tribal strife in other states like Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland. The CPI(M) and the Left’s role is the key factor in Tripura.
The record of the Left Front government under the leadership of Manik Sarkar is also outstanding in the developmental and welfare activities. It is acknowledged by all that Tripura is the best governed state in the north-east. In the 2001 census, Tripura was in terms of the literacy rate the 11th among all states; in the 2011 census,Tripura had reached the 4th position with 88 per cent literacy. There were no farmers suicides and no starvation deaths in the last ten years.
Tripura has an excellent record in the delivery of various schemes. Tripura stood first in the country in 2011 by generating 86 average man days under the rural employment guarantee scheme (MNREGA). Tripura has also done justice to the tribal people by being in the forefront in implementing the Forest Rights Act. By mid 2012, 1,19,342 pattas had been distributed to forest dwellers securing their land. There are 16 pension schemes that cover almost all BPL families.
As far as infrastructure is concerned, 90 per cent of the total of 8,312 habitations are electrified. 90 percentage of irrigable land has been brought under irrigation facilities and 50 per cent of the total cultivable land is now irrigated.
The biggest step taken by the current Left Front government was the introduction of 35 kgs rice at Rs 2 per kilo for all BPL card holders which is 2 lakh families. In the north-eastern states, rice is supplied at Rs 5 to 6 per kilo due to the higher transportation costs. It was so in Tripura too till August 2012. The supply of rice at Rs 2 has been welcomed by all sections of the people. The Tripura government is bearing the cost of the increased subsidy.
The Left Front was the first to announce its list of candidates for the 60 assembly seats, 20 of which are reserved for scheduled tribes. The CPI(M) is contesting 55, the CPI-2, the RSP-2 and the Forward Bloc-1.
The Congress party finalised its list of candidates among squabbles and open rifts. It has maintained its alliance with the tribal organisation, the INPT which is the body which incorporated the TUJS and some other tribal groups. The Congress traditionally had no base among the tribal people. It therefore allied first with the TUJS and later the INPT.
These tribal organisations have had separatist platforms at various points of time. The Congress had the dubious record of encouraging the tribal separatist and extremist forces just to isolate and weaken the CPI(M)’s strong base among the tribal people.
Today, these tactics stand discredited before the people. The Left Front stands for unity, peace, progress and development – a platform which is attracting the youth in large numbers.
At the rally on January 20, wave after wave of people, marched into the ground raising the slogan “We will bring the Seventh Left Front Government”. This is a pledge which will be in all certainty fulfilled on February 14.
People's Democracy,January 27, 2013