New Delhi: Once the dust settles on the shock Tripura verdict, questions will inevitably be asked as to how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) managed to orchestrate such a dramatic turnaround.
One answer lies in the shift in victory margins. Even though the Left alliance’s sweep in 2013 was bigger than the performance of the BJP alliance in 2018, the constituency-wise contest was closer in 2013 (see Chart I).
Essentially, though the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, won 49 of the 60 seats in 2013 compared to the BJP-Indigenous People’s Front of Tripura (IPFT) alliance’s tally of 43 in 2018, the Left victory was more closely contested.
In 2018, there was far more constituency-wise polarization, resulting in fewer closer contests.
Defections from the Congress party, which has now disappeared from Tripura’s electoral landscape, certainly helped the BJP.
But so did the polarization of votes, which resulted in the Left failing to win enough seats despite garnering a substantial chunk of the votes.
This is best illustrated by the CPM holding on to a healthy victory margin in the seats that the party did manage to win. (see chart 2)
Despite winning only a quarter of the seats, the CPM managed to secure nearly 43% of all the votes cast. The polarization was particularly significant in the tribal autonomous regions, where BJP ally IPFT won by an average margin of 15% more votes than the runner up. The disillusionment of particularly the tribal population—which makes up a fifth of the electorate in the state—with the Left government, is amply clear.
The silver lining for the CPM is that the party still retains a loyal base, though it may have lost the ability to attract a broader coalition beyond its immediate base.
But for a party which, merely a decade ago, was making plans to aggressively expand into the Hindi heartland instead of spending time worrying about its traditional strongholds, it has definitely been a dramatic fall from grace.